The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCLS) keeps tabs on what’s new in each of the 50 states. Beginning in 2012, some state lawmakers introduced legislation protecting employees from being required to give up their social media account passwords in order to get or keep a job. And some states included laws preventing colleges and universities from requiring student passwords.
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This year, 26 of the 50 states have introduced or have pending legislation regarding whether or not your employer may require access to your social media accounts to either get or keep a job.
Public and Private
California already protects employees who work for private companies from having to give their social media account passwords to their employers. Additional legislation offering the same protections to public employees is still pending. If you work for the government of the state of California, you are not (yet) protected.
Maine clarifies that institutions of higher learning, whether public or private, may not require access to student or prospective student social media accounts. This is a nice distinction; I wonder if a private college in a state that prohibited schools from requesting passwords could get away with it if they didn’t accept government funding?
Just this past February, California also introduced legislation protecting jurors from having to give their social media passwords to the judge, to any officer of the court, and to the lawyers involved representing the parties in the court case.
Giving the Law Some Teeth
Florida has sent to the House Committee on Economic Affairs new language authorizing civil actions in cases an employer retaliated (by, for example, firing) against an employee for refusing to divulge social media usernames and passwords. Oklahoma also includes authorization for civil action. New Hampshire includes mention of civil penalties when employers do not comply with the law.
Mississippi, Iowa, and Pennsylvania are three states whose legislation or pending legislation mention penalties. Penalties may or may not include civil action, but at least there is a deterrent.
Landlords and Tenants
Wisconsin includes language not only protecting you from employer access, and protecting post-secondary students from school access, but also protecting tenants from landlord access to their internet accounts. Therefore, you may not be denied a place to live because you don’t want to give up your passwords.
Find out if your state is included in the lists of existing and pending legislation from the NCLS.
Tell Us What You Think
Is there ever a time when employees should have to give up their passwords to employers? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.