Employer’s rights to passwords
On May 2nd, Maryland became the first state to enable legislation that prohibits employers from demanding usernames, passwords and other means of access to social media sites of their employees as well as job applicants. This background for this law involves a situation with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections Services practice of requesting officers to provide login information for Facebook and other social media websites. A former corrections officer enlisted the help of the ACLU after he was asked for his Facebook password during a recertification process.
While Maryland is the first jurisdiction to enact this type of legislation, many other states, such as Washington, Illinois, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Texas and Massachusetts are currently considering similar bills. The Massachusetts bill also prohibits prospective employers from “friending” job applicants to view Facebook profiles.
Not to be ignored, the U.S. Congress has also recently become involved with this topic. The Password Protection Act of 2012 was introduced on May 9th to both the House and the Senate. The proposed legislation prohibits employers from requesting any private information about an employee or applicant maintained on a non-employer owned computer. There have also been inquiries made into the Department of Justice and the EEOC to determine if the practice of requesting Facebook password is a violation of federal law.
In light of the all this percolating legislation, employers would be wise to be proceed with great caution in this emerging area.
About the Author
Ann Mizner McKay is the General Counsel and Senior Vice President at WGA. She manages the legal affairs of the company and also manages the Claims Department.