Legal Risk Involved with Asking for an Employee’s Facebook Account Information

Author: Stephen D. Hans

The latest slippery slope for the law and social media is whether employers have the right to ask employees or job candidates for their Facebook or Twitter account usernames and passwords.

Two Senators, Chuck Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, requested that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigate to determine whether such requests are federal law violations.

As a small business owner, what should you do?
From a legal standpoint, best practices for small and medium-sized businesses are to refrain from asking for social media network usernames and passwords. Employers asking for such login information put their companies at risk for the following reasons:

  •   Such activity may prove to violate the following federal laws—
  •   Stored Communications Act
  •   Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
  •   Employees belonging to protected groups may claim discrimination
  •   Even though employers may make turning over a password a voluntary action, the      courts may view it as coercion

The Maryland Courant  just recently reported that the Maryland General Assembly passed a law making it illegal for Maryland employers to ask employees and job candidates for usernames and passwords for their websites such as Twitter and Facebook. At this time, the bill awaits the Governor’s approval to become law. This legislation would make Maryland the first state to ban employers from requesting social media network login information.

Seek legal advice
Before taking actions regarding social media and employees, discuss your concerns with an experienced New York employment lawyer. Safeguard your business and avoid potential lawsuits.

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