State Rep. Jesse White is seeking to prohibit employers from requiring social media users to reveal user names and passwords as a condition of employment.
White said he has introduced legislation—H.B. 2332—to ban the practice because he said it is an invasion of fundamental privacy rights.
"The widespread use of Facebook and Twitter has opened a whole new can of worms in the employment sector and allows companies to snoop in their employees' personal lives like never before," said White, D-Cecil. "But, employers should not be abusing the tight job market to put employees or prospective employees in an uncomfortable situation where they are forced to 'friend' the company by giving away personal details about themselves and others."
The legislator added: "It's a dangerous slippery slope. What's next? Asking for the keys to a person's house in a job interview? Going through their drawers?”
White said Maryland became the first state to ban the practice in April after an incident in which a corrections officer complained that the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services sought his password to search personal Facebook posts during a re-certification interview.
Following Maryland's lead, at least 15 pieces of legislation banning the practice have been introduced in 11 other states and the U.S. Congress, including California, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina and Washington.
White added companies open themselves to lawsuits by this practice because viewing an individual’s private profile may uncover membership in a protected class that the applicant may not wish to disclose publically.
In this case, he said, the employer now is privy to sensitive and protected personal information which increases their exposure to discrimination lawsuits.
"There are existing, time-tested and effective screening methods available to companies to secure quality employees, and potential employees should use always use caution about what they post online," White explained. "However, this type of access could conceivably give employers information they could never ask about otherwise under federal law, such as whether you are pregnant or terminally ill."
The lawmaker emphasized that his bill does not restrict an employer's right to maintain workplace policies or monitor an employee's use of electronic communications devices, the Internet, social media or email accounts while at work.
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