New Law Says Employers Cannot Ask For Social Media Passwords

Illinois has a new law which goes into effect on January 1, 2013, that makes it illegal for employers to ask job applicants or employees for passwords to their Facebook accounts or other online profiles.

The new law, which amends the Illinois Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act, makes Illinois only the second state to enact this kind of law, though Maryland, New York, California, and Washington have introduced similar legislation. Under the Illinois law, there are no exceptions, not even for jobs requiring background checks. Employers are still permitted to maintain lawful workplace policies relating to use of the Internet, social networking sites and electronic mail. The law also permits employers to access information regarding current and prospective employees that is in the public domain and obtained without a password.

According to bill sponsor Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago), “Social networking accounts are places where we document the personal and private aspects of our lives,” Ford said, “and employers have realized they can get answers to questions they are prohibited from asking by gaining unfettered access to our accounts. This legislation may protect employers from future lawsuits as much as it protects employees and job-seekers.”