Archive for April, 2012


California has more employment laws than most states, many employers would say too many employment laws.  The recent news that some employers are asking for Facebook passwords from potential employees raises the question whether this is illegal under California law.

It is likely such a practice would violate the California Constitution, Article 1, Section 1, which provides that all persons have a right to privacy in their personal affairs.  This Section has been interpreted broadly in some cases, and held applicable to the employer-employee relationship.

Moreover, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, codified in the Government Code, provides that employers cannot discriminate against employees or job applicants on the basis of sex, national origin, race, religion, or disability.  If an employer could not ask a job applicant what religion they are in an interview, the argument is “why should the employer be allowed to view private information on Facebook that may very well lead to the discovery of the same information?” 

Two U.S. Senators are asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the alleged practice.  Facebook itself has recently warned employers not to ask job applicants for their passwords, and has even threatened legal action for violations of Facebook’s policy regarding sharing passwords. 

It is questionable how widespread this practice really is.  That being said, employers in California would be well advised to steer clear of it. 

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The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein is calling on the leader of California’s senate to end what she calls “abusive lawsuits filed by private attorneys against small businesses” for minor violations of disabled access laws. 

Senator Feinstein, widely regarded as an influential politician, made this request in a letter to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.  Steinberg is said to have written back stating the California Legislature shares her concerns, but thus far no solutions have been agreed upon.  Feinstein has warned that if the California Legislature does not act, she will consider introducing legislation responding to this problem with the U.S. Senate.

Many of you reading this will be thinking “what took so long?”  Nearly every business-owner knows disabled access lawsuits have been a problem for years now.  While the ADA and Unruh Act laws on disabled access were undoubtedly written with the best of intentions, opportunistic individuals have managed to make a killing hunting out businesses displaying the most minor of violations, and then settling with those businesses to the average tune of $5,000.00 to $14,000.00.  

Critics of these lawsuits also focus on the serial nature of those who file the majority of the suits.  According to a 2006 story in the Sacramento Bee, notorious ADA lawsuit filer Lynn Hubbard, who is not disabled, filed over 1,221 ADA lawsuits.  220 of these lawsuits alone were on behalf of Hubbard’s parents, with the demands totaling over $13 million.   

If you have a question on disabled access laws do not hesitate to contact our firm.  We have worked closely with certified access specialists in this field, and can help you prevent or correct violations before they result in litigation. 

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