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Illinois Legislature Bans Employers from Demanding Facebook Password

On May 22, 2012, the Illinois legislature passed a bill to prevent employers from requesting Facebook and other social networking website passwords from their current and prospective employees. The proposed measure is pending before Governor Quinn for final approval.

The bill, HB3782, amends the Illinois Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act to make it unlawful for an employer to request a password or other account information in order to access a current or prospective employee’s social networking website. Under the bill, employers are permitted to maintain lawful workplace policies relating to use of the Internet, social networking sites and electronic mail. The bill also permits employers to access information regarding current and prospective employees that is in the public domain and obtained in compliance with the Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act.

Illinois is one of several states to consider legislation aimed at protecting social networking privacy in the employment realm. Maryland, New York, California, and Washington have introduced similar legislation.

Congress also has shown interest in the topic, introducing similar legislation just last month.  Like the Illinois bill, the federal proposal prevents employers from forcing current or prospective employees to turn over their social networking passwords.

The Illinois and federal bills would curb employers’ attempts to access Facebook pages or other social networking sites used by current and prospective employees to elicit information that might be helpful in making employment decisions. On the other hand, in the process, employers also might obtain information that could expose them to potential discrimination or other claims. Tapping into the wealth of information available on Facebook, for instance, can open the door for employees and job applicants to claim employers obtained information about their protected status, such as their religion, disability, and age, and used that information to make an adverse employment decision. Thus, the Illinois and federal bills preventing employers from accessing such information might save employers from the risk of unnecessary exposure to potential claims from current and prospective employees.

It is expected that Governor Quinn will sign HB3782 and it will become law. Employers should review HR practices now and advise recruiters and other staff who interact with employees and prospective employees to advise them of this legislative change and ensure compliance.

© MICHAEL BEST & FRIEDRICH LLP

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About this Author

Daniel Kaufman, Michael Best, trade secret protection attorney, higher education lawyer,
Partner

Clients turn to Dan because he is an outstanding litigator and a trusted advisor on employment issues. His deep knowledge of employment law, exceptional judgment, and strategic advice enable clients to achieve their goals.

Businesses, colleges and universities, municipalities, and other clients rely on Dan’s proven litigation experience and proactive counsel on a broad range of issues, including:

  • Discrimination and harassment suits

  • Non-compete, non-solicitation, and...

312-836-5077
Sarah Flotte, labor employment law attorney, Michael best law firm
Partner

Sarah serves as a trusted advisor offering proactive, strategic employment counsel. Representing companies and management exclusively, she works with a diverse range of manufacturing, logistics, government, financial, and higher education clients of all sizes. 

Sarah’s strategic, client-focused practice includes:

  • Litigation involving discrimination, harassment and retaliation claims, non-compete enforcement and defense, employee leave disputes, wage-and-hour claims, and defamation lawsuits

  • Counseling on employment issues related to wrongful termination, hiring, evaluation, and discipline of employees, non-competes, wage claims, employee handbooks, privacy, sexual harassment, reductions-in-force, breach of contract, tortious interference, and investigations

  • Training of supervisors, employees, and top-level management

Sarah’s experience spans state and federal laws impacting the workplace, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and a variety of other laws.

312-661-2104