California law makers have a message for employers: keep your hands off employee’s social media passwords. The new law will help protect the privacy of employees that sue for sexual harassment and other employment discrimination.
According to a similar Maryland state law, employers cannot require workers and job applicants to turn over passwords to private social media accounts as a condition of employment. The Maryland legislators passed a first-of-its-kind bill last week. This kind of law is necessary to limit the reach of employers when it comes to invading the privacy of employees – and the privacy of friends and family in their online networks. This comes at a time when social media has become very important in the personal and professional lives of almost everyone.
The California law (AB 1844), would prohibit an employer from requiring an employee or applicant to disclose a social media user name or account password. This protection extends to any electronic medium where users may create and view user-generated content, including uploading or downloading videos or still photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, or instant messages.
Attorneys for victims of harassment and discrimination welcome this new law because employers try to defend lawsuits by going on fishing expeditions into the victims’ Facebook acccount. If the law passes, the employers will have to find a new fishing hole.