California banned social media snooping in 2012, but other states have been slower to adopt similar laws.
In 215, Maine became the 23rd state to restrict employers' access to social media accounts of applicants and employees. The others are: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
When the job market gets tight, some companies – unfortunately – take more liberties with what they're allowed to ask of you. One bone of contention between applicants and employers is the privacy of social media.
Do you have to give up your passwords to your accounts, show the employer your Facebook, Twitter or other personal pages, or add the employer to your friends or followers lists?
… yes and no. It depends on your state.
Here's what employers can't ask you to do under media snooping laws:
- Give them the password to your private social media account
- Make you access your personal social media account while they watch
- Require you to disclose any personal social media account information
- Require you to add anyone to your list of contacts for your personal social media account
- Require you to alter personal social media account settings that would let a third party look at the account
If you refuse to disclose this personal information, you can't be fired or disciplined for saying "no." If you're a job applicant, you can't be rejected for your refusal to comply with these demands.
You can be required to give up personal information if:
- The employer is required by law to monitor employee or applicant communications when there's a reasonable belief that the information collected is vital to an investigation of employee misconduct or a violation of laws, rules or regulations
- The social media account is opened on behalf of the employer
- It's publicly available information
- You're using employer-issued hardware, software or email accounts to access social media
With any new employment law compliance, it's important that you stay informed, since laws vary from state to state. If you have any questions, be sure to check with your state's Attorney General's office.