Illinois Law Prevents Employers from Demanding Social Network Passwords from Employees and Job Candidates

A new law makes Illinois the second state to prevent employers from demanding social network passwords as Governor Pat Quinn recently signed legislation – House Bill 3782 (HB 3782) – that protects the right to privacy of current employees and job applicants by making it illegal for employers to request social network account information such as usernames or passwords to gain access to their accounts or profiles. The full text of the law, which takes effect January 1, 2013, is available here: Illinois House Bill 3782 (HB 3782).

“Members of the workforce should not be punished for information their employers don’t legally have the right to have,” Governor Quinn stated in a press release on the Illinois.gov website. “As use of social media continues to expand, this new law will protect workers and their right to personal privacy.”

Sponsored by Representative La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), HB 3782 amends The Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act by preventing employers from screening job candidates or current employees based on information from their private social network accounts such as Facebook. However, the definition of social networking sites in HB 3782 does not include email and HB 3782 does not prevent employers from obtaining information about current or prospective employees in the public domain.

The state of Maryland passed the first law in the nation to prohibit employers from asking employees and job applicants for social media passwords. Both Houses of the Maryland General Assembly approved identical versions of a social media privacy protection bill – Senate Bill 433 (SB 433)/House Bill 964 (HB 964) – that prohibits employers from requesting or requiring employees or job applicants to disclose their user names or passwords to social media websites and other personal Internet sites and Web-based accounts as a condition of employment. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley officially signed SB 433 in May 2012. The law will take effect October 1, 2012.

Employers should approach so-called ‘social media background checks’ that search the Internet for the online activities of job applicants with extreme caution, according to Attorney Les Rosen, founder and CEO of San Francisco-area background check firm Employment Screening Resources (ESR). “Employers have discovered a treasure trove of information about job applicants on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter with social media background checks,” says Rosen, author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual.’ “However, using the Internet for screening job applicants can land employers in legal trouble since information found online is not always risk free or even true.”

Rosen says employers in the Internet age are in a “Catch 22” situation when it comes to social media background checks. “Failure to utilize social media resources can arguably be the basis of a negligent hiring claim if an unfit person was hired for a position where a search online may have raised a red flag. Conversely, employers face numerous pitfalls that can include that include privacy, discrimination, and accuracy issues.” To help employers understand the legal dangers of social media background checks, Rosen has authored a  complimentary white paper, ‘Managing the Risks of Using the Internet for Employment Screening Background Checks,’ that is available at http://www.esrcheck.com/Download/.

For more information about background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority’ and a nationwide background screening firm accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) – at http://www.ESRcheck.com, call 415.898.0044, or email customerservice@esrcheck.com.

Sources:
http://www.illinois.gov/PressReleases/ShowPressRelease.cfm?SubjectID=3&RecNum=10442
http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&SessionId=84&GA=97&DocTypeId=HB&DocNum=3782&GAID=11&LegID=61758&SpecSess=&Session=
http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/2012/03/08/illinois-bill-would-bar-employers-from-asking-job-applicants-for-social-media-passwords-during-background-checks/
http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/2012/04/10/maryland-passes-first-law-prohibiting-employers-from-asking-employees-and-job-applicants-for-social-media-passwords/
http://mlis.state.md.us/
http://mlis.state.md.us/2012rs/billfile/HB0964.htm
http://mlis.state.md.us/2012rs/bills/hb/hb0964t.pdf
http://mlis.state.md.us/2012rs/billfile/SB0433.htm
http://mlis.state.md.us/2012rs/bills/sb/sb0433t.pdf

About Employment Screening Resources (ESR):

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check AuthoritySM’– provides accurate and actionable information, empowering employers to make informed safe hiring decisions for the benefit for our clients, their employees, and the public. ESR literally wrote the book on background screening with “The Safe Hiring Manual” by Founder and CEO Lester Rosen. ESR is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), a distinction held by a small percentage of screening firms. By choosing an accredited screening firm like ESR, employers know they have selected an agency that meets the highest industry standards. For more information about Employment Screening Resources (ESR), visit http://www.esrcheck.com/, call 415.898.0044 or 888.999.4474 (Toll Free), or email customerservice@esrcheck.com.

About ESR News:

The Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News blog – ESR News – provides employment screening information for employers, recruiters, and jobseekers on a variety of topics including credit reports, criminal records, data privacy, discrimination, E-Verify, jobs reports, legal updates, negligent hiring, workplace violence, and use of search engines and social network sites for background checks. For more information about ESR News or to send comments or questions, please email ESR News Editor Thomas Ahearn at tahearn@esrcheck.com.