By Melanie Nathan 03/20/2012
I read an article today in SF Gate, noting that some companies and government agencies are going beyond merely glancing at a person’s social networking profile and may have the audacity to ask for log in information, such as the usernames and passwords. The idea is that a prospective employer can then look at social information about an applicant, some of which a person looking for work may choose to want to keep private. Imagine if LGBT equality legislation served as the catalyst to bring such snooping to an end.
This is an egregious privacy violation for all and especially for those who fear they may be ‘outed’ as gay, lesbian or bisexual; after all there are so many people gathering friends on Facebook, in secret, who are not yet ready to come out.
Questions have been raised about the legality of the practice, which is also the focus of proposed legislation in Illinois and Maryland that would forbid public agencies from asking for access to social networks.
However taking this to the realm of LGBTI candidates, imagine a scenario where a prospective employer accesses a privately kept profile to see one hundred rainbow flags waving his or her way and then uses the assumption of a sexual orientation as a reason not to hire the applicant.
In a difficult job market some LGBTI folk may find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place, as whether they refuse or give the information they could well find themselves ostracized. But maybe a piece of long sitting legislation could solve the problem for all.
In the USA there is no law protecting prospective hires from discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, but there could be with a wake up call to the Democrats and a big nudge of the Republicans.
Since the rise of social networking, it has become common for managers to review publicly available Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts and other sites to learn more about job candidates. But many users, especially on Facebook, have their profiles set to private, making them available only to selected people or certain networks.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) if enacted would provide the mend for gay people and maybe heterosexual people too as it would probably be a good reason for employers to avoid the Facebook intrusion in the first place, for fear of accusations that may point back to employers by any gay person not hired for a position. So ironically ENDA could be the solution in this instance even for the entire problem.
ENDA is a proposed bill in the United States Congress that would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by civilian, nonreligious employers with at least 15 employees.
ENDA has been introduced in every Congress since 1994 (except the 109th) while previous employment anti-discrimination legislation has been proposed since 1974.
The bill gained its best chance at passing after the Democratic Party broke twelve years of Republican Congressional rule in the 2006 midterm elections. In 2007, gender identity protections were added to the legislation for the first time. Some sponsors believed that even with a Democratic majority, ENDA did not have enough votes to pass the House of Representatives with transgender inclusion and dropped it from the bill, which passed the House and then died in the Senate. LGBT advocacy organizations and the LGBT community were divided over support of the modified bill.
In 2009, following the 2008 elections that strengthened the Democratic majority, and after the divisiveness of the 2007 debate, a transgender-inclusive version of ENDA was introduced by Rep. Barney Frank. He introduced the bill again in 2011, and Sen. Jeff Merkley introduced it in the Senate.
President Barack Obama supports the bill’s passage. Any of the current Republican Presidential candidates would likely veto the measure.
So imagine if ENDA gained more support at this time based on the Facebook privacy scenario. With its passage, it would be a great risk for any employer to delve. If ENDA were enacted perhaps the employers would fear looking at all.