If You Are Shoulder Surfing Your Job Applicant’s Facebook Page, Read On…


New Jersey is known as a state that is as friendly to its employee and job applicant inhabitants as the state is generally to its resident consumers.  Recent and pending restrictions further cement the state reputation by added more protections.  New Jersey employers and hiring managers need to be aware of the rapidly changing landscape.


For example, effective on December 1, 2014, New Jersey enacted social media password protection legislation.  This law forbids employers from asking job applicants to “provide or disclose any username or password, or in any way provide the employer access to, a personal account through an electronic communications device.” The law does not explicitly mention “shoulder surfing” — the practice of asking the interviewee to log into a social media account as the interviewer watches, but the language of the law hints that shoulder surfing — as well as other actions to gain more insight into an applicant’s private social media files — may be a violation of the law, resulting in penalties and civil liability.


Additionally, a new law that just took effect last month limits when employers may ask applicants about their criminal backgrounds.  Most employers are no longer permitted to ask about an applicant’s criminal record until after the employer has performed an interview and selected the applicant.  This includes job application forms.  Employers may inquire about the applicant’s criminal record immediately prior to making a formal offer, but not before.  Even then, there are certain restrictions for convictions over 5 years old.


Finally, employers should be aware there is movement in both the state and federal legislatures to restrict credit checks on potential applicants.  A bill currently in the New Jersey Assembly would prohibit credit checks except where the employee’s credit history is “an established bona fide occupational requirement of a particular position or employment classification.”  The bill has not yet passed, but it’s something to watch.


As seen above, major changes to New Jersey employment law have taken effect in just the last six months, with more changes possible on the horizon.  It is prudent for employers and hiring managers to be adequately informed about the rapidly changing practices in employment law in New Jersey and nationwide.


As experts in business law, Bergmann & Good is available to provide the consultation and support that hiring managers and employers need to navigate today’s business environment.