Our employment law attorneys have been warning employees of the dangers of posting work-related and especially potential lawsuit-related information on Facebook for quite some time, and our continued warnings should go without saying for most people. We, however, have seen an upswing in the amount of questions we receive regarding potential employers either checking a potential employee’s Facebook information and/or asking for a potential employee’s Facebook information during his or her interview process.
The common norm is that potential employers, during the interview process, can check your Facebook page and view any information which is not kept private, in the same way that any person wishing to learn more about you can should they search your name on Facebook. To this end, potential employers can also request that you indicate whether you maintain a Facebook account and the username under which it is maintained, but a trickier situation develops when a potential employer requests your actual Facebook password to access all of the information you have on your social media site.
As the law in Ohio currently stands there is nothing prohibiting a potential employer from requesting your Facebook password, apart from common conceptions of personal privacy and decency. Ohio Senator Charleta B. Tavares, however, aims to change that fact through her introduction of Senate Bill 45, the Social Media Privacy Protection Act (“SMPPA”). The SMPPA would prohibit employers, employment agencies, personnel placement services, and labor organizations from requiring an applicant or existing employee to provide access to private electronic accounts such as Facebook. The SMPPA does not apply to work-related electronic accounts, and it does not prohibit an employer, employment agency, personnel placement service, or labor organization from monitoring the electronic accounts of employees or applicants on the internet system of the employer, employment agency, personnel placement service, or labor organization.
Of its major provisions, the SMPPA would impose fines in the amount of up to one thousand dollars for an employer’s first violation and up to two thousand dollars for each subsequent violation. It also seeks to prevent any adverse action such as discharge, discipline, threaten to discharge or discipline, or refuse to hire if an employee refuses to disclose his/her username and/or password. To quote Senator Tavares, form her recent Press Release, “This bill is an effort to correct the invasion of the privacy of individuals who simply want to work. Employees should not have to give the keys to their personal and private information just to gain or maintain employment.”
In 2012, California, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan and New Jersey passed legislation similar to Tavares’ proposed SMPPA, and, in 2013, twenty-one States have introduced or have pending legislation concerning this issue. Our employment law attorneys will keep an eye on the progression of the SMPPA, in hopes that Ohio will soon join the ranks of States unwilling to allow for the unneeded intrusion into the privacy of potential employees.
If you even think that your employment rights have been violated or that you might need an employment lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm is dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.
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