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New Illinois law prevents employer access to social media account

Some employers have started requiring employees and applicants to provide passwords or otherwise full access to their social media accounts due to the increasing popularity of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. The Illinois Legislature has recently put a stop to this practice.

Illinois amended the Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act on August 1. It now prevents employers from demanding access to employees’ and job applicants’ social media accounts. The addition to the law will go into effect January 1, 2013.

Employers will be prohibited from requesting or requiring passwords or any other related private account information in order to gain access to personal accounts from employees and applicants. Employers are also not permitted to access social media accounts for any reason, including work-related investigations of misconduct, harassment, or any other legitimate business reason. The law has no exceptions.

The law, however, does not prohibit employers from gathering information about employees and applicants that is in the public domain. It does not ban workplace policies that govern the use of employers’ electronic equipment, as well as employers monitoring how employees use to electronics and email.

Penalties for violating the law:

Employees and applicants can file complaints with the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL). After an investigation, IDOL many file action in court to enforce provisions of the act. Employees and applicants can also file private action in courts.

Employers are also prohibited from retaliation and discrimination against the person who made the complaint.

Illinois is the second state, following Maryland, to pass this law. Similar legislation, however, has been introduced in California, Delaware, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Washington.

In addition, two federal laws have been introduced as well:

  • The Social Networking Online Protection Act would prohibit employers from requiring or requesting an employee or applicant to provide a password or other means for accessing a private email account or personal account on a social networking site.
  • The Password Protection Act of 2012 would prohibit employers from compelling or coercing any person to provide a password or similar information to access a protected computer that is not owned by the employer.

If your employer has broken these laws, contact a Schaumberg employment attorney today. After the first of the year, there is no excuse for requiring personal social media account information. Contact The Miller Law Firm, PC for help today.

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