Every Tuesday, ESSENCE Magazine’s Senior Editor of Personal Finance & Careers answers burning questions from readers…
Q: Help! Interviewers want to access my Facebook account! Is this legal?
: According to recent published news reports, the number of employers who are demanding access to applicants’ Facebook profiles has risen over the last year. You may not be aware that this was happening because the practice is so new. My opinion? It sounds fishy and, more importantly, illegal. Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Unions say that accessing such private info puts employers in a pickle and may open them up to both privacy and discrimination lawsuits. The truth of the matter is that what is private should be allowed to remain private… but doesn’t that go against the grain of why social media was created in the first place?
Yes, you have every right to say “No, you can’t have access to my personal accounts,” but also understand that even if it’s illegal, which would likely require consulting a lawyer where you live, you have to ask yourself, Do I want this job or not?
Whether it’s Twitter, FB, Pinterest or LinkedIn, the point is for you to share what you think, where you are, and with whom you’re spending time, right? In the land of Black folks, whose unemployment rates are rising faster than any other race, I don’t know that we’re in a position to even say no to employers who ask for such access.
Now if it were moi, I would be cool with it. Why? Because I’m not going to say, do, post, photograph or videotape ANYTHING that would embarrass my momma, my husband, my babies, my daddy or me. And at the end of the day, those are the people who matter most to me.
Ladies and gents, integrity still counts for something. If you put out the drunk video, post the fishnet-stockings outfit from Halloween, or upload the XXX Caribbean adventure with your boo that you don’t want an employer to see, you better damn well know that they are going to find it — with or without (and there are easy ways to do this) your permission.
To me, this is less about protecting your privacy rights than it is about protecting your brand. If you’re not worried about the world seeing what you post, why do you care what an employer thinks?
Q: “Help! I have a simple ***ault from 2003 and still can’t find a good job after going back to college. Now what?”
Lawd, have mercy. When I first read this, I thought you meant a “simple default,” as in “I got bad credit” (stop laughing, ladies and gents). After reading it again, I realize you meant a “simple assault.” And if that’s the case, I have to ask the “college” (a.k.a. prison) experts in my family to point me in the right direction about the impact of having a prison record on employment.
Here’s what I found out: In spite of your criminal record, everyone has a right to be gainfully employed. But because employers are legally responsible for the safety and well-being of employees and the work environment, it can be difficult to keep a “good” job without having your record sealed or expunged. The best policy is to be honest and upfront about your past with a potential employer, show remorse for your past indiscretions and then even provide positive referrals from local pastors, politicians or heavy hitters in the community who support the fact that you’ve turned your life around. As for getting your record sealed or expunged, consult with the attorney who represented you or the local public defender or your probation officer. Therules for the sealing or expunging of records are different for each state, so ask what steps, if any, need to be taken to get the ball rolling. Also, if you do find a job, any job, keep it, do stellar work and then hopefully you can move up. Even with a blemished past, people will help people who help themselves. For more information, check out this article on privacy rights.
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