Illinois Employers Cannot Ask Employees For Social Media Passwords
Jan 12, 2013
Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) January 11, 2013 – At one time, employers in Illinois asked their job candidates for their social media passwords. They can no longer do this.
“In a move regarded as a victory for employees, Illinois governor Pat Quinn has ushered in a law that bars employers asking job applicants for their social media passwords. This legislation acts to protect their private communications from potential or current managers,” outlined Timothy Coffey, a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace.
The newest Illinois law, referred to as the “Facebook Law,” went into effect January 1, 2013. While it does ban asking for passwords, the law still allows employers to see the public portion of an employee’s online account. The buck stops there though, as the manager may not try to look at any content the worker feels is private and is password protected.
Online privacy is a unique 21st century issue, and something needs to be done to address it. In passing the new law in Illinois, it becomes only the second state to have something like this on the books. It is a comprehensive law, and even shuts the door for job positions that need background checks. The legislation has won approval from civil liberties groups.
“While the new law does stop employer’s from asking for passwords, it does not affect their right to have technology in place at work to stop employees from using company provided computers,” Coffey added. They are also well within their rights to advise the employee(s) that they are not to discuss any company trade secrets online, and that should they express an opinion in a social media setting, that the opinion is only “their” personal thoughts, and not necessarily those of the company.
Maryland is the other state with a similar law, and there are other states seriously contemplating similar bans: New Jersey, Delaware and Washington. This issue is starting to heat up, and two U.S. senators have requested that the Department of Justice look into whether or not asking for personal passwords when applying for a job is legal.
While this may seem like a tempest in a teapot, there is a very real problem associated with handing out passwords; it opens the door to discrimination. “Online profiles may contain information about someone’s sexual preferences, religious beliefs or even what political party they vote for. Information like this may cost an individual a chance at a job; certainly a discriminatory action,” said Coffey.
Timothy Coffey is a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace. To learn more or to contact a Chicago employment attorney, visit http://www.employmentlawcounsel.com
THE COFFEY LAW OFFICE, P.C.
351 W. Hubbard Street, Suite 602
Chicago, IL 60654