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Maryland would be the first U.S. state to restrict employers from asking for this information

After encountering a few incidents where employers asked applicants and employees to surrender their social networking usernames and passwords, the state of Maryland has become the first in the U.S. to pass a bill that would prevent employers from asking for this information.

The bill, which passed unanimously in the Senate and by a large number in the House of Delegates just last week, is now waiting to be signed by Governor Martin O'Malley. If he signs the bill, Maryland would be the first state to prohibit such an act.

The bill was drafted in response to recent issues with Maryland employers asking for Facebook emails and passwords in order to investigate who they're considering for hire. 

Some business groups, such as the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, have argued that employers need the information from social networking sites like Facebook to see who they're really hiring; not just the person that the applicant chooses to show.

However, human rights group American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) disagreed, saying that this practice is invasive to those who were not aware that they would have to share such information on a job interview.

Last year, ACLU pursued a complaint from Robert Collins, a corrections officer at the Maryland Department of Corrections. According to Collins, who was already an employee at the Maryland Department of Corrections, his employer asked for his Facebook email and password. His co-workers were asked for this information as well.

"My fellow officers and I should not have to allow the government to view our personal Facebook posts and those of our friends just to keep our jobs," said Collins.

After the ACLU put up a fight, the Maryland Department of Corrections stopped asking for social networking usernames and passwords from both employees and applicants. However, it found a loophole and simply asked that applicants log onto their Facebook accounts themselves right in front of the employer.

According to Melissa Goemann, legislative director of ACLU of Maryland, another state corrections officer contacted the ACLU about a similar case where employers had asked for Facebook emails and passwords to dig for information. Also, seven potential prison guards out of 2,689 applicants were denied jobs due to Maryland employers using social networks to assess the people applying.

Goemann said the new bill would be a helpful tool for Maryland residents.

"We just think this is a really positive development because the technology for social media is expanding every year, and we think this sets a really good precedent for limiting how much your privacy can be exposed when you use these mediums," said Goemann.

This new bill isn't the only effort to stop employers from snooping social networks for dirt on employees. The issue may be taken to the federal level, with U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) asking the Department of Justice and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to look into the topic.

Source: The Baltimore Sun

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They need a better excuse...
By xenol on 4/11/2012 12:22:05 PM , Rating: 4
"...need the information from social networking sites like Facebook to see who they're really hiring;"

The Maryland Chamber of Commerce might as well tell me it should be perfectly legal for a company's HR to live in my house or plant hidden cameras in there to see that I'm an upstanding citizen of the country.

RE: They need a better excuse...
By jasper994 on 4/11/2012 1:17:33 PM , Rating: 2
I agree, if they have the right to look into someone's private facebook account, why not also give them the right to tap your phone, and demand the keys to your car and house. This is ridiculous. People have a right to privacy. As an employer, I only want to know about the work history of a potential employee, and in certain cases I agree a background check is reasonable. Beyond that, it is up to me to monitor my employee's performance, particularly in the first 90 or so days, and judge for myself whether or not my decision to hire them was a good one.

Perhaps there are certain fields where a more thorough background/personal investigation is warranted, but this should not be the norm and those specific fields should be outlined in the laws. Perhaps if you want a job as a teacher you should be subjected to these sorts of things, but then this is a slippery slope and once we start down this road...

RE: They need a better excuse...
By Solandri on 4/11/2012 2:35:42 PM , Rating: 5
Just make reciprocity a legal requirement. If the employer feels they need the applicant's FB password to "see who they're really hiring," then by the same reasoning the applicant should be given their boss' FB password to "see who they're really going to work for."

RE: They need a better excuse...
By Rukkian on 4/12/2012 10:37:10 AM , Rating: 3
Or, asking for the full financial records and audits of the company to make sure they are financially stable and can afford to pay me.

If you go the facebook route, I would want the passwords for email and facebook of all senior officers, since I will be working for all of them.

This should never be allowed, and I don't even use facebook.

RE: They need a better excuse...
By Motoman on 4/11/2012 2:43:33 PM , Rating: 2
It truly boggles the mind that employers think it's OK to do this in the first place. I'm surprised it's even legal...and maybe it already isn't, based on existing privacy laws.

RE: They need a better excuse...
By bah12 on 4/11/2012 3:27:18 PM , Rating: 1
Legally (at least nationally) you'd be surprised at how little protection you have from Equal Opportunity laws.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.

It's not like the employer is forcing you to do anything, if you don't comply you just don't get the job. For example I could ask you if you are a Democrat or Republican, and blatantly not hire you solely based on that (party affiliation is not protected against discrimination). There are other things you may consider a "right" or discrimination that are perfectly legal to refuse employment based on. For example if you are a smoker, or maybe you have a tattoo or piercing.

I'm not advocating the practice, but do we really need more protectionist laws. Is that not enough? Ultimately one has to ask themselves if we really want to add "privacy" as a protection under EEOC.

I think the only reason it is coming up now, is that it is a "buyers" market with regard to employment. There is a large pool of workers, and now businesses can be pickier.

RE: They need a better excuse...
By WalksTheWalk on 4/11/2012 4:22:50 PM , Rating: 1
While the practice is objectionable, why do we need yet more laws on the books for this. It's part of at-will employment and the market will punish the employer if they get too grabby for information. All good employee candidates that can get jobs elsewhere will tell the employer they will not share the password, so the employer is left with only those candidates that need work and cannot get work elsewhere or are just willing to offer up their passwords. The employer will learn that those employees aren't worth it and will eventually drop the practice. Even if it works out that the employer is happy with the candidates that are willing provide this information, both are acting willingly and of their own accord.

I just don't understand why everything that is questionable needs a law, except to curry the voting public's favor for re-elections.

By FormulaRedline on 4/13/2012 1:44:47 PM , Rating: 2
While the practice is objectionable, why do we need yet more laws on the books for this. It's part of at-will employment and the market will punish the employer if they get too grabby for information.

I partially agree with you here. I believe in natural supply and demand even for jobs. If an employer is artificially limiting their pool from which to draw talent (by whatever they see on facebook, political affiliation, tatoos/piercings, or other examples posters here have already mentioned), it is the employer who will suffer in the end. I have nothing to hide on my facebook page and might even be happy to show an employer around the page, using photos and posts as examples of the type of work I can do and quality of person I am. However, if they ever asked for my password that would be the last time I ever talked to them.

On the other hand, what if such an employer decided instead to discriminate against something like race? That is obviously a problem that has benefited from legislation. Where do we draw the line? I don't think I know the answer.

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