Employers are requiring their employees to provide the passwords to their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Potential employees are asked to provide this information at their interviews. Is this legal?
For now, yes. However, some state legislatures and organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are fighting back to preserve the privacy rights of employees. The ACLU has compared employers looking at employee’s private Facebook page as akin to opening their personal mail or listening to their phone messages. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission comments that the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from obtaining information about a person’s disability or genetic information, and allowing access to Facebook would increase the likelihood of employers violating the ADA.
Certain states have already recognized the negative implications of allowing employers to ask for passwords and are contemplating legislation to prevent employers from requesting passwords from employees or potential employees. California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and New York are among the states who are contemplating passing legislation which would restrict employers from asking for passwords. Recently, Maryland became the first state to pass a bill banning employers from requesting passwords to social media websites.
New Jersey has yet to officially propose any legislation banning the practice. New Jersey Assemblyman John Burzichelli says he plans on introducing a bill which would ban the practice and even prevent employers from requesting that employees waive their rights under the law. Given the broad protections already allotted to New Jersey residents, requesting potential employees to give their passwords to social networking sites will almost certainly be highly scrutinized by the state legislature and courts.