Should Wisconsin follow the example of our neighbors to the south when it comes to social media and applying for a job?
Job applicants in Illinois will no longer feel pressured to give a potential new boss their social media or personal email passwords.
According to a story from The Huffington Post, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday signed a bill into law, making that state only the second in the Union to restrict employers from asking for passwords. And the law is restrictive; even employers - like government agencies - with positions that require a thorough background check are prohibited from asking for passwords.
"We're dealing with 21st-century issues," Quinn is quoted as saying. "... Privacy is a fundamental right. I believe that and I think we need to fight for that."
The law applies to current and future employees, but still allows companies to set policy for workplace use of social media and personal email. Employers are also not restricted from viewing information that is not protected by privacy settings.
Two US Senators have also asked the federal Department of Justice to review whether or not these requests violate privacy laws.
Discrimination seems to be the primary concern, according to the Huffington Post story.
Professor Lori Andrews at the Illinois Institute of Technology's Chicago-Kent College of Law pointed out that online profiles can contain information pertaining a person's sexual orientation, religious beliefs and politicial leanings.
With at least 75 percent of employers saying they use social media to vet job applicants and a third of those admitting to turning down candidates because of social media, there may be cause for concern.
Here in Wisconsin, a Google search didn't bring up any recent bills that may have been introduced into either the Senate or the Assembly, but the law firm of Godfrey & Kahn, L.P. posted an entry to their blog recently that addresses the issue.
Author and attorney John Kalter urges employers to use extreme caution when considering changing or implementing social media policies for current and future employees. Among the concerns he cites, possible discrimination charges, allegations of retaliation and just plain old violation of privacy laws already on the books.
"While there may be employers and jobs for which such seemingly intrusive requests are entirely permissible, employers who are considering implementing such a process should consult with counsel before doing so," writes Kalter.
Patch asked the state Department of Justice to weigh in if the issue has been addressed here. We'll update the story when we hear from them.