Ban on Employers’ Asking for Facebook Passwords Becomes Law in Maryland

Author: Hans & Associates, P.C. , Stephen D. Hans
“Queens & NY Labor & Employment Discrimination Attorneys”

The fabric of how we do business today involves the increasing use of social media (SM) networks like Facebook and Twitter. Companies embodying SM into their marketing and branding campaigns reap the advantages of building goodwill and trust with customers, humane and personable brand positioning, lead generation, and more traffic to business websites.

Yet, small and medium sized businesses in particular are wise to also consider potential legal ramifications. What is the legal relationship between employers, employees, and social networks? Are internet laws that protect employee’s SM rights coming to your state? What SM business actions could make you liable for a lawsuit?

These are relevant questions as we witness Maryland being the first state to prohibit employers from asking employees for their Facebook logins. The Washington Post reported that Maryland’s governor signed the bill into law and it goes into effect on October 1, 2012.

Maryland’s new law arose out of a practice that Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) had in place. The institution made it routine to ask employees for Facebook passwords. It accessed Facebook accounts as part of a screening process to check for gang affiliations when hiring or reinstating an existing employee. However, this practice ended when employee Robert Collins filed a complaint through the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland against the correctional institution for invading personal privacy. The department’s response  was that it had received 120 similar emails and decided to suspend the practice pending investigation into the merits and detriments of its use.  And as an interesting aside, the DPSCS also has its own Facebook website.

Part of comprehensive business planning in today’s world should include consulting a New York employment defense lawyer about your business practices to ensure you do not put your company at risk.

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