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.

The Intersection of Social Media and the Office: Texting, Tweeting and Your Business


That smart phone on your assistant’s desk is both a blessing and a curse.  Either childcare arrangements can be adjusted with a quick message, or hours of productivity can be lost.  Facebook, Twitter or texting communication is now widely accepted in the workplace, but keeping it in check with uniform policy and enforcement is essential.  Strike a balance between modern communication and your business needs.

Take Action Early

Make company policy on smart phone and social media use clear and uniform. If an employee understands the company expectations during office hours, there is less room for misuse and abuse. Having a clear cut and universal policy also helps to create a homogenous office environment. In other words, an employee is less likely to spend all day texting if expectations are clear.

Be Reasonable

Although making company social media policy clear, it is just as important to be flexible. If an employee occasionally sends a quick text message, it’s not beneficial for you to reprimand them. Creating a harsh work environment creates unhappy employees – which has a much higher productivity cost than an occasional text.

Policy Considerations

Set Clear Expectations : A clear explanation of the purpose and guidelines for your companies social media policy will counter your employee’s resistance.

Coverage of all devices : “Cell phone” is not defined broadly enough.  Your policy should address texting of all types (SMS, instant messaging, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) through the use of phones, and other wireless devices.

Description of who’s covered: As with most other employment policies, your texting rules should apply to all employees, consultants, temporary staff, and other third parties who work either on-site or in the field.  Be sure to include both company owned and personal devices in your policy as well.

List of specific activities: Be specific to your organization’s needs.  Operating a vehicle, including heavy machinery and personal cars and trucks for business-related purposes, should be at the top of your list of strictly forbidden activities.

Practice What You Preach

Although being an employer rather than an employee means you get a bit more leeway with office policy, be the leader your employees can emulate.