Maryland comes up first in the legislative race throughout the states in passing what many may consider essential legislation protecting employee and applicant privacy rights as it pertains to social media account information. Illinois and California have measures that have recently passed through legislative committees, while bills are still being considered in New York and on the federal level. (See my blog on March 21, 2012: http://socialaxcess.com/2012/03/21/can-companies-really-ask-for-candidates%E2%80%99-facebook-twitter-passwords/)
Last week, Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland signed the country’s first law restricting employers’ ability to demand social media account information from applicants and employees. The Maryland law takes effect on October 12, 2012, and contains the key points:
- There is no “small employer” exemption, and covers all employers, as well as “an agent, a representative, and a designee of the employer.” Therefore, employers cannot avoid liability by contracting out to have someone else do what the law prohibits.
- An employer is prohibited from requesting or requiring an applicant or employee to “disclose any user name, password, or other means for accessing a personal account or service through” a computer, telephone, PDA, or similar device. An employer may, however, require the disclosure of a user name and password to access non-personal accounts that “provide access to the employer’s internal computer or information systems.” (The difference being personal accounts versus work accounts.)
- An employer cannot terminate, discipline or penalize an employee (or refuse to hire in the case of an applicant) based on a refusal to disclose any prohibited information (which the employer is now no longer able to ask for in the first instance).
Bottom line for employers in all states is to be cautious about how your recruiters and hiring managers go about obtaining social media-based information to reach decisions about applicants and employees. Stay tuned for more developments in this area.
Want to learn more about legal guidelines for recruiters? Join us this month in Chicago at the Social Recruiting Strategies Conference May 22-24th. http://socialrecruitingstrategies.com/chicago-2012/agenda.html