Illinois-based job searchers can breathe a collective sight of relief, as the state’s Governor Pat Quinn signed on Wednesday a bill that will prevent employers to demand passwords for social media sites from current and prospective employees.
“Members of the workforce should not be punished for information their employers don’t legally have the right to have,” Governor Quinn said. “As use of social media continues to expand, this new law will protect workers and their right to personal privacy.”
House Bill 3782 – dubbed by some “The Facebook Bill” – makes it illegal for employers to screen potential job candidates or reprimanding current employees based on information from their social network accounts.
“This law will not only protect employees’ reasonable rights to privacy on the Web, but will shield employers from unexpected legal action,” Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno and co-sponsor of the bill pointed out, as employers are also not allowed to ask employees or potential employees about their age, sex, race, or sexual orientation, which are things that a peek into their account on a social networking site might reveal.
The law will go in effect on January 1, 2013. Any employer that breaks it can be taken to court and, if found guilty, be slapped with a fine. Unfortunately, the fine is rather small ($100-$300), so it’s difficult to tell how much of a deterrent this law will provide.
Also, the bill doesn’t cover email passwords, and does not prevent employers from searching for employee information that is in the public domain, and to ask for their social network usernames in order to check out any posts that may be public.
Illinois is the second state in the USA that has passed a law that forbids employers to ask employees and job applicants for login information to their social networking account – Maryland was the first.
Other states are currently trying to do the same. Among them are California, New Jersey, Washington and Delaware.