Why are some employers asking workers and would-be workers for their Facebook passwords?

Because, with U.S. unemployment hovering at 8.3%, they can.

"Unfortunately, in these economic times employers may exercise latitude in asking for the unreasonable," career coach Sandra Lamb said in an email. "But employees (and applicants) should be steadfast in asserting their rights to their personal life. If your FaceBook or other social media website password is requested (or required) that goes beyond a red flag--it's a deal breaker."

Even social media newbies know that you need to check and re-check your privacy settings on Facebook and other social networks at regular intervals to make sure employers don't see any content you don't wnat them to see. Or, better yet, don't post that content in the first place. But employees, job applicants and student athletes are increasingly being asked for their Facebook passwords so their overseers can check to see what content they may be hiding behind their privacy wall.

"If your Facebook or other social media website password is requested (or required) that goes beyond a red flag--it's a deal breaker." - Sandra Lamb
Increasingly, employers are testing the limits of how far they can go with social media companies. Employers have quite a bit off leeway on what they can and cannot do when crafting these policies, but it's also important for employees to assert their rights.

Tatyana Kanzaveli heard from his former employer when he took a new job as CEO of Getwear. Even though he no longer worked for the company, he was told he was violating their social media policy.

"I was quite surprised to hear from my ex-employer that I was not in compliance with their social media policies as I have not updated my personal Twitter profile info to reflect my new role," Kanzaveli said. "This 'requirement' has not been listed in any papers I signed with them when I started my employment."

Kenan L. Farrell, an Indianapolis attorney, notes that employees don't have a right to privacy or free speech in the workplace - in other words, you sacrifice some of those rights for the right to work for a private-sector employer. But employers should have policies in place to avoid discrepencies, and employees should ask questions when accepting an offer if social media use policies aren't explicitly laid out.

"As an initial point, employees should ask whether or not their employer has a social media policy so they know what is expected of them. Some companies are lenient, some are strict," Farrell said. "There's no right answer but it's important to set expectations. Employers should all have a social media policy in place by now, if only as a part of their standard employment polices."

In a recent presentation, Farrell outlined key points for employers looking to implement a policy that explicitly covers social media.

Lamb, the career coach, said employees should be proactive in inquiring about social media policies but should not shy away from asserting their rights to privacy in non-work time activities.

"To initiate the conversation and establish the rules, if they aren't laid out, assert your rights in a statement like, 'I'm very careful about my online social persona, and I realize it is personal. I don't participate in social media on organization time, and I ask that the organization respect my personal social media rights'," she said.