I trust that, of all the social media and employment law issues we discuss, you are most sick of hearing about the legislative efforts to prohibit Facebook password demands by employers. Or you just don’t care. Or you still don’t think it’s truly a problem that needs a legislative response.
But duty calls here at this blog, and it’s time for a reset to re-tally the score. Last week, the federal government reintroduced a bill that would proscribe demands for social media passwords in certain situations. Much as there has been the same push on the state level. In fact, as you know, Maryland, Illinois, California and Michigan have already enacted laws that prohibit employers from demanding account information from applicants and current employees, while New Jersey and Delaware have passed laws that do the same thing with regard to higher education institutions demanding social media account information from students or prospective students.
Many states are currently considering pending social media privacy bills, including Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Texas, and Vermont. Others, such as New York, have previously introduced bills, and will undoubtedly do so again in 2013.
The federal bill re-introduced last week as the proposed “Social Networking Online Protection Act” attempts three primary things: (1) Prohibit employers from requiring or requesting that an employee or applicant give user name or password information to access a private e-mail account or social networking site (and from disciplining or refusing to hire an employee or applicant for refusing to give the information); (2) Amend the federal Higher Education Act of 1965 to prohibit institutions of higher education from making the same requirement or request (and from disciplining or denying admission for any current or potential student who refuses to give the information); and (3) Amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to accomplish the same thing for local educational agencies receiving federal funds.
Employer Take Away: What should you as an employer take away from this development?
Despite what appears to be the lack of public outcry on this issue at this point, or any word of widespread employer or school conduct on this issue, legislative leaders on all levels are still pushing this issue into law. Keep reading and watching.