Recently, employers have been requesting of would-be employees, login credentials for Social Networking accounts such as Facebook. According to two U.S Senators, Facebook and other social network passwords should remain private.

Suspect this is probably a violation of employment laws, two U.S Senators, Richard Blumenthal and Charles Schumer have requested the U.S Department of Justice and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to investigate this practice as a condition of employment.

According to EEOC regulations, under federal law, employers are not permitted to request information such as race, marital status, religion and other protected information. Requiring access to a would-be employee could potentially provide such information.

The Senators, requested Attorney General Eric Holder to issue a legal opinion as to whether requesting of such information violates federal law.

“Two courts have found that when supervisors request employee log-in credentials, and access otherwise private information with those credentials, that those supervisors may be subject to civil liability under the SCA,” the Senators said in their letter. “See Pietrylo vs. Hillstone Restaurant Group, 2009 WL 3128420 (D.N.J. 2009); Konop vs. Hawaiian Airlines, Inc., 302 F.3d 868 (9th Cir. 2002). Although these cases involved current employees, the courts’ reasoning does not clearly distinguish between employees and applicants.”

In the Senators letter to the EEOC, they point out “If employers asked for some of this information directly, it would violate federal anti-discrimination law. We are concerned that collecting this sensitive information under the guise of a background check may simply be a pretext for discrimination.”

The Senators are in preparation of legislation that will prohibit the practice as a violation of privacy. Senator Blumenthal is confident the practice will be found to violate federal law. Also noted, such practices would also violate the privacy policies of Facebook itself and the company intend to take legal action against any employer that forces Facebook users to reveal their login credentials.

The message to employers is clear: asking would-employees for social networking login credentials is breaking the law. Employers have a right to view and read anything posted publicly, but going beyond what is public as requirement of employement opens the door for potentially serious legal problems.

Employers finding no wrong in such practices should consider reviewing the EEOC non-discrimination practices for more details on how the business could potentially be held liable for civil liability.

If you are a would-be employee faced with the decision of giving up your login credentials to a would-be employer, as the employer to make the request in writing. If you believe you are not hired as a result, file a complaint with the EEOC and provide the written request as evidence.

On the other hand, understand if you are applying for a job that requires a high level of security clearance, your information may be accessed anyway, so as a best practice you should avoid posting anything that could be potentially harmful to your employment career.