Employers in Illinois may soon be prevented from asking employees for
their social media passwords, according to a bill proposed by State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (D-Chicago).
House bill 3782 would make it illegal for any employer to request any employee or prospective employee to provide a password in order to gain access to the person’s profile on a social networking site, such as Facebook. The bill easily passed a House vote last week, and Ford said he believes the Senate will vote on the bill shortly after returning from recess on April 17. Assuming the bill passes in the Senate, it will move to a full House vote.
Ford said the bill protects employees and employers alike. “Prospective employees are afraid to speak up because they don’t want to prevent themselves from receiving employment,” Ford said. “And it protects employers from facing future lawsuits.”
The bill would stop this issue before it becomes a bigger problem, according to Ford. Future lawsuits brought against employers would cost Illinois taxpayers money, he said. “That’s what the government should do: stop something before it becomes an epidemic,” said Ford.
According to a Huffington Post article, a Michigan teacher’s aide is challenging her dismissal from her position after refusing to give the district access to her Facebook page. And a New York City statistician withdrew his application from a prospective employer when the interviewer asked him for his Facebook login information, according to a Fox News article.
Social media has changed society, Ford said, and it’s important that Illinois keeps current when it comes to social media laws. But Illinois legislators have to be careful how they interpret laws that involve social media, according to State Rep. Patti Bellock (R-Westmont). While Bellock said she agreed with the bill’s main premise, she voted against it because of possible non-compliance with federal law and because she thought the bill moved too fast through committee.
“This is brand new territory,” Bellock said. “We want to be careful that what we do with legislation is accurate.” Bellock added that if the Senate makes the changes she deems necessary, she will most likely vote for the bill in a full House vote.
Ford said some House representatives voted against the bill because they believe a private business has the right to do whatever it wants. But Ford believes if state legislators support local businesses, they should vote for HB 3782.
“Why would you want to subject the businesses to lawsuits that come from something like this?” Ford asked.
HB 3782 aims to protect current and prospective employees, but there’s another group Ford though about including in the bill: college students. Ford said he considered including postsecondary students in the bill to prevent colleges and universities from asking for Facebook passwords, but he didn’t want something like Facebook profiles stopping Illinoisians from finding work.
“Legislation can always be written to protect students’ privacy. I don’t want any obstacles in the way of employment,” said Ford.