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Legal Insider: The Right to Be Forgotten as it Relates to Employment


This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Reston Town Center that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement, and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry

A movement that has started in Europe would greatly influence our own employment laws if adopted in the United States. The movement is often referred to as the “Right to be Forgotten.”

If the movement takes hold here, we expect that such a change to the laws of the United States would definitely affect individuals seeking employment.

What is the Right to be Forgotten?

The Right to be Forgotten is simply the ability of negative personal information on the Internet to eventually be deleted or delisted on the Internet. This right is the result of a May 2014 ruling by the European Union’s Court of Justice which found that individuals can ask search engines to remove specific results for inquiries that include their name when the interest in those results is outweighed by the individual’s privacy rights.

This right, as it has been implemented in Europe, has applied mostly to search engines, such as Google, or websites, such as Wikipedia. For example, in Europe, information about misdeeds as a minor, old financial issues, or petty crimes from a long time ago could be deleted. In order to make such a request, a person can ask a search engine, like Google, to delink the material at issue.

Google currently provides a form for this type of request for covered individuals. If such a request is approved, then Google will delink the materials at issue from their European websites (not in the United States).

There have been a number of lawsuits in Europe that have been successful at eliminating negative information on the Internet which no longer serves a purpose. The goal has been to enable individuals with bad prior media exposure, or perhaps unflattering or inappropriate pictures, the ability to move on with their lives without having the negative information remain public forever. To an extent, the Right to be Forgotten functions in a similar manner as outdated negative credit information which eventually falls off a credit report.

How the Right to be Forgotten Might Assist Employees

If implemented in the United States, the Right to be Forgotten would have a significant effect on people seeking employment. While there are legal issues that may exist involving an employer’s search of a job applicant’s background on the Internet, many employers still search prospective employees’ backgrounds on the Internet.

A job applicant’s likelihood of successfully obtaining the employment he or she is seeking significantly lessens if negative information is found about the applicant on the Internet by the potential employer. Should the Right to be Forgotten be implemented in the United States, it would be easier for those individuals that have significant negative information on the Internet to attempt to have a fresh start.

According to a survey by Adweek, 9 in 10 Americans are in favor of the Right to be Forgotten. It may take a few years, but this type of legislation is likely to come to the United States in some form or another. When it does, it may enable many individuals a new start, especially with regard to employment.

We represent employees in security clearance matters. If you need assistance with a security clearance or other employment issue, please contact our office at (703) 668-0070 or at to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook at

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