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Bill Proposed to Limit Employers' Access to Employee Social Media

Twitter2.jpgAdding new employees is risky business. It's expensive to train them, and there's no guarantee they'll work out. Sometimes new employees don't blend well with existing personalities or office culture. As such, employers typically want to know as much as possible about a candidate before they throw them into the mix.

However, there are lines between what is, and is not appropriate for employers to ask. One thing Minnesota employers could soon be prohibited from asking is for an employee to disclose their social media passwords.

Separating employers from employee social media

A proposed bill would provide numerous protections for employees and their social media accounts. The measure would make it unlawful for employers to: 

  • Require passwords to employee private accounts
  • Compel applicants or workers to add, follow, or friend specific people to their private social media accounts
  • Coerce an employee to change his or her account from private to public
  • Punish an employee for refusing to share posts or account information

The case for and against these measures

Proponents of the bill say that it is necessary to keep the digital space private for employees. Handing over access to these accounts to an employer would be unreasonable.

Moreover, some online comments--even those adverse to the employer--are protected conduct under the National Labor Relations Act.

On the other hand, a person's actions and statements online could affect their ability to perform certain tasks or fill certain roles. Should these eventually become public through other avenues, they could adversely impact employers who hired the person.

There are also concerns when it comes to state and national security jobs that demand extensive background checks. Though, there is expected to be an exception for these roles.

Protecting yourself as an employer

If you are an employer, it is crucial to consult an attorney to understand how you can protect yourself and your company when you are looking to hire new people. This involves knowing what you can ask, determining how to access appropriate information about a candidate and navigating the interview process without violating a person's rights.

It is also important to familiarize yourself with state and federal employment laws, as well as the penalties for alleged violations. As such, we will continue to follow any developments in this bill and discuss if and how it could impact employers.

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