A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: employment

The Ghost of Public Records

By Alex Noble

Let’s face it – we’ve all done things we’re not proud of. But what happens when your past follows you everywhere, because it is a matter of public record? That’s what’s happening to Yasmin Rahman, a 27 year-old New Yorker who says that as a consequence of trying to commit suicide 12 years ago, today she can’t land a job.

Yasmin Rahman was 15 years old when she tried to kill herself by jumping from a crowded subway platform in front of an oncoming train. The NYPD saved her life that day – they rescued her from the tracks and she spent six months recovering in the hospital. She learned to cope with her mental health issues, finished high school, enrolled in and completed college —  and says that 39 employers have refused to hire her because they found detailed reports of her suicide attempt when they searched her name in the public records.

If you ask Ms. Rahman, this is unfair. And since she can’t erase the past, she has settled on the next best thing – filing a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the NYPD for releasing her information to the public in the first place. Yes, this is the very same department whose officers saved her life. And yes, Ms. Rahman is suing for invasion of privacy though she tried to kill herself in one of the most public ways imaginable.

But before you gather a posse with torches and pitchforks, remember that Ms. Rahman was a minor at the time, and that a person’s mental illness is a personal and very confidential matter.

Several media outlets have reported the facts behind Rahman’s lawsuit, but only LASIS explores the merits of her claim.

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Potential Employer Wants Access to Facebook Account

By Paul Irlando

A Maryland Department of Corrections policy requiring potential employees to hand over their Facebook username and password information has gone too far, says the American Civil Liberties Union. They’re probably correct.

In April 2010, after three years of employment, Robert Collins took personal leave from his job as a Corrections Supply Officer with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Planning to go back to work in November, Mr. Collins applied to be recertified and was called for an interview with a DOC investigator. During the interview, Mr. Collins was directed to provide his Facebook username and password. He did, and watched while the interviewer inspected his profile for several minutes. The interviewer also indicated that the DOC would continue to login as Mr. Collins for up to two months, while it completed its background check.

This did not sit well with Mr. Collins, who contacted the ACLU of Maryland. And then things really got interesting, with the ACLU issuing a press release and subsequent YouTube video about the DOC practice, and then, in January, sending a letter to the Maryland DOC questioning the legality of the practice and asking the DOC to rescind it. On February 22, the DOC suspended the requirement for forty-five days pending a review of the policy.

Is the requirement illegal as the ACLU suggests? The Maryland DOC said it inspects social media profiles to weed out potential employees with gang affiliations, a legitimate concern considering the nature of the work. Does an individual’s privacy right outweigh the DOC’s interest? The Washington Post reported the story, but didn’t address the legal issues. We’ve done some research. Here’s what we think: (more…)

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