Illinois Enacts Law Prohibiting Employers From Demanding Social Networking Passwords
Illinois recently passed a law which will make it the second state (joining Maryland) to prohibit companies from demanding an employee's social networking password. Signed August 1, 2012, Illinois' new law takes effect on January 1, 2013, and prohibits an employer from (1) requesting, or requiring, any employee or job applicant to provide his or her social networking password or other account information, and (2) demanding access to an employee's or applicant's social networking account. This prohibition relates to sites such as Facebook, among others. The law applies to Illinois employers of all sizes, is enforced by the Illinois Department of Labor, and ultimately provides a private right of action for individuals to sue employers in state court.
It is important to note that the Illinois law allows employers to continue to monitor employees' use of the company's network, electronic equipment and e-mail. In addition, companies are still permitted to promulgate and enforce lawful social media and electronic resources policies.
At least a dozen other states are considering joining Illinois and Maryland in enacting similar prohibitions. In light of this increased interest in state regulation, and in light of the National Labor Relations Board's critical view of social networking policies (as we reported to you previously here andhere), now more than ever employers need to be aware of the changing legal landscape related to social media and social media policies.