Illinois Prohibits Employers from Seeking Facebook Passwords

On August 1, 2012, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law a provision that amends the Illinois Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act to make it illegal for employers to ask employees or applicants for passwords or other account information related to their social networking accounts. The law also prohibits employers from demanding access to such accounts in any other manner.

Despite these prohibitions on requesting protected information, employers are free to obtain information about an employee or applicant that is in the public domain. The new law also does not restrict employers from having policies regulating the use of the employer’s electronic equipment, or monitoring the usage of an employer’s electronic equipment or e-mail.

Several other states are considering similar laws, including Washington, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey.

Employers are cautioned to be mindful of existing state and federal laws pertaining to background checks on applicants and employees, and to ensure that those extracting information from the public domain on applicants or employees are doing so consistently and pursuant to an established policy. 

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