When it started to happen, it was making headline news all over the country. Online, in print and certainly on social media outlets people were talking. Most were outraged at the audacity of employers these days, others were simply bewildered. I’m not talking about an employer being outwardly racist. No, that’s clearly illegal. I am, however talking about employers asking their candidates or prospective employees to hand over their social media passwords before they are hired. This may not be illegal all over the country yet, but certain states are taking action and one already has.
Ever since Facebook popped it’s head into our lives years ago, it seems as though it has been causing an awful lot of trouble. For awhile, many users were unsure of the privacy limits. Once that was taken care of, we were exposed to unwanted marketing and our information was and still is stored and used without our knowledge. Now, Facebook seems to be butting it’s head into our work communities. It’s no secret that employees have photos, posts or information that employers would deem as unsatisfactory, but what gives them the right to presume to ask people for their passwords?
A lot of people don’t feel like they have they right, and so the password bill in Illinois begins to make its rounds. If signed, the bill will protect employees and job seekers by law from having to provide their social media passwords to prospective or current employers. If the bill is in fact signed by Gov. Pat Quinn then Illinois will join Maryland as one of the first states to take legal action against employers demanding access to private networks.
Earlier this month Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed a similar bill which takes effect starting Oct. 1. Senators of New York and of Connecticut have also asked the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity(EEOC) Commission to take a look at the issue and investigate it. Not surprisingly, state representatives in Chicago started to catch wind of the seriousness of the issue when people began writing letters describing their experiences with employers asking for their passwords. With such a high unemployment rate, it doesn’t seem fair that boundaries like this are being crossed and candidates being ousted for information that is mostly private and personal.
Sate Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, was quoted saying, “Any time you have high unemployment, we have barriers, and we have to do everything we can to help people get to work. We try to make the laws to fit society, and this is what this bill does.” The bill passed through the Illinois senate this past Tuesday with a 55-0 vote. If passed, it will be illegal for employers to ask employees or possible employees for their social media passwords. And that’s how it should be, right? An employer wouldn’t ask for our email password and search through our personal emails would they? It’s not likely, so this should not be likely either.
What do you think of this bill and the act of asking an employee or prospective employee for their password? If you were an employer would you ask for it? Tell me about it in the comments or tweet me @nicole_spark.
SOURCE: Chicago Tribune in print
IMAGE: Courtesy of Colgate University