Ore. and Wash. bills would ban employers from demanding passwords

Ore. and Wash. bills would ban employers from demanding passwords

SALEM, Ore. – Lawmakers in both Oregon and Washington will consider bills this week that would limit what employers can force employees to do on social media.

The bill in Oregon, known as SB 344, would make it illegal for your boss or prospective boss to force you to become Facebook friends or a Twitter follower.

The measure would also prohibit employers from requiring workers or job applicants to give up access to their social media accounts.

The Associated Press reported last year that some companies and government agencies were going beyond merely glancing at a person's public social media profiles, asking instead to log in as the job applicant and have a look around.

A bill working its way through the Washington Legislature would make it illegal for employers to ask job applicants for their Facebook or other social media passwords.

The bill would also make it illegal for employers to make it a condition of your continued employment.

A public hearing is set for Monday afternoon for the Washington bill, which is currently in a Senate committee. Violators would have to pay employees $500.

Legal experts say gaining access to someone's Facebook or other social media accounts could reveal chronic health conditions, disability, pregnancy, faith, political views, or sexual orientation, which employers are generally not allowed to ask about.

And what about gaining access to your activities or habits? Employers in Illinois have been sued for discriminating against applicants and employees for their use of lawful products, like cigarettes or alcohol.

Maryland is the only state so far that bans employers from asking applicants for their social media logins. But whatever an employer finds out there in the public domain is fair game.

Read more: Recap of 2012 state legislation on social media access