A bill – Illinois H.B. 3782 – originally introduced last spring and recently taken up by the Illinois legislature’s Labor Committee would amend the state’s ‘Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act’ to bar employers from asking prospective employees for their usernames or passwords to their social media profiles on sites like Facebook or Twitter. Introduced by State Representative La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago), H.B. 3782 would make it illegal for employers to gain total access to social media sites of job applicant’s during the hiring process. The full text of Illinois H.B. 3782 is available here. H.B. 3782 would amend the ‘Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act’ by changing Section 10 as follows: Sec. 10. Prohibited inquiries. (a) It shall be unlawful for any employer to inquire, in a written application or in any other manner, of any prospective employee or of the prospective employee’s previous employers, whether that prospective employee has ever filed a claim for benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act or Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act or received benefits under these Acts. (b) It shall be unlawful for any employer to ask any prospective employee to provide any username, password, or other related account information in order to gain access to a social networking website where that prospective employee maintains an account or profile. As reported by WJBC 1230 AM in Bloomington, IL, State Representative Ford explained that “getting access to an applicant’s account not only gives employers access to personal social information but sometimes sensitive banking information as well.” However, Ford cleared up a common misconception of H.B. 3782 by saying the bill would not prevent employers from considering information found on public social media profiles of job applicants. He expects the bill to become law by the end of the spring legislative session. Social media background checks have become more popular screening tool with employers lately, especially with the news that social network website profiles may predict future job success. A study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology – ‘Social Networking Websites, Personality Ratings, and the Organizational Context: More Than Meets the Eye?’ – even claims that “a 10-minute review of a Facebook page” could yield not only ‘red flags’ but also “an unvarnished look at a job candidate” and clues to “character and personality.” The study is available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1559-1816.2011.00881.x/full. However, employers should still approach the area of social network background checks with caution, according to Attorney Les Rosen, CEO of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), who says that “social media background checks can land employers in legal trouble since information found online is not always risk free or true.” To help employers understand the dangers of social media background checks, Rosen wrote a white paper titled ‘Managing the Risks of Using the Internet for Employment Screening Background Checks’ to provide an introduction to the legal issues employers could face using social media for employment screening and ways to avoid then legal issues. Rosen – author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ and a frequent speaker nationwide on due diligence issues – warns employers could encounter legal landmines while using social media background checks that include:
- Too Much Information (TMI) and Discrimination Allegations.
- Too Little Information (TLI) for Negligent Hiring Lawsuits.
- Credibility, Accuracy, and Authenticity Issues.
- Computer Twins and Cyber-Slamming.
- Legal Off-Duty Conduct
- Privacy Issues.