States Restrict Ability of Employers to Ask for Employees' Passwords

July 18, 2014

Seventeen states have passed laws restricting the ability of employers to ask for login and password information from employees, reports Stateline.

Two years ago, in response to complaints from a state employee who was asked to provide the password to his Facebook account, Maryland became the first state to pass a law preventing employers from asking for personal information for online accounts. Since then, states across the political spectrum have put limits on the ability of employers -- both state and private -- to ask for login information from potential hires and current employees.

Some state laws prevent employers from retaliating against their employees for refusing to give up password information, imposing fines that range from $500 to $1,000 when employers violate such rules.

As social media has risen in popularity, employers have become concerned that the information that their employees put online could damage their business' reputation.

Supporters of the privacy laws say that the online information is akin to personal correspondence and that employers should not be able to demand to see a person's correspondence simply because it is in online, not paper, form. But employers counter that if certain company information becomes public, it could damage their company and their investors.

According to labor and employment law firm Littler Mendelson, of 417 businesses that it surveyed in 2013, only 1 percent reported having asked for social media login information as part of their hiring process.

Source: Jeffrey Stinson, "Password Protected: States Pass Anti-Snooping Laws," Stateline, July 8, 2014.

 

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