POLL: Should It Be Legal for Potential Employers to Ask for Social Media Passwords?

Illinois just passed a law that makes it illegal for employers to ask job candidates for the passwords to their social media and personal email accounts.

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.

Randy1949 August 03, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Yes indeed they can. You have to wonder what genius in HR thought this concept up and why.
$$andSense August 04, 2012 at 02:59 AM
What is the "Daily Kos"? Something you and Saul came up with? Posting at all times of the normal working day makes one wonder if you have a job or are just scamming off your employer, the taxpayer on unemployment, or mom and dad's basement.
Rees Roberts August 04, 2012 at 03:07 AM
James R Hoffa August 04, 2012 at 03:23 AM
@$$andNonsense - Again with the personal insults - you just don't let up, do you? As Hoffa has stated numerous times before, his job as an independent contractor has him in front of a computer for upwards of 12 hours or more a day. As Hoffa is his own boss, he can do whatever he pleases whenever he pleases. And Patch is Hoffa's break-time relaxation / fun. Hoffa has never scammed off of anyone, and he resents such an accusation! Hoffa only hopes that one day, you would actually learn to appreciate your double-wide, instead of constantly being jealous and envious of Hoffa.
jukap29 August 09, 2012 at 02:23 AM
not necessarily NO reason - trade secrets, insider info, heck even HR news can be leaked by employees. as well as behavior unbecoming of a representative of a prestigious company. I believe strongly in privacy, but also liberty - you are free to post whatever you want, but you must be prepared to pay the consequences for posting drunken, promiscuous pictures and inflammatory statements...


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