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CA May Block Employer Requests For Applicants' Facebook Passwords

In response to the growing trend of employers asking current and prospective employees for login information for personal social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, discussed previously on our employment law blog, California Assembly Member Nora Campos proposed AB 1844, a bill that would prohibit California employers from doing so. According to Campos, a user's personal profile should be left exactly that -- personal.

Access to current or prospective employees' personal information -- such as commentary, photographs, personal messages and even affiliations -- may increase the likelihood that an employer may intentionally or unintentionally commit employment discrimination in the hiring process.

The California State Assembly Judiciary Committee will hear the bill next Tuesday. If the Committee approves the bill, it will be sent to the full Assembly for consideration and vote.

AB 1844 also provides protection for employers as well as current and prospective employees. Before hiring a new employee, an employer must conduct a reasonable search to determine whether an applicant is incompetent or unfit. The proposed bill would exempt social media from the sources that an employer must investigate before making an offer of employment.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has supported California's AB 1844, likened digging through someone's social media account to asking for an applicant's house keys and rummaging through his or her mail. Just because social media information is available online and thereby easier to review, doesn't mean that it should become part of the decision-making process prior to hiring.

Maryland recently passed legislation prohibiting employer access to password-protected social media sites of current and prospective employees. The practice of demanding Facebook and Twitter passwords is intimidating to applicants and an invasion of privacy, according to advocates of the bill. Whether the prohibition will become law is uncertain; the Governor of Maryland has not yet signed the protections into law.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, "Landmark Social Media Privacy Bill to be Heard before California Assembly Judiciary Committee," Nora Campos, April 20, 2012

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