Governor Pat Quinn today signed a new law protecting current and prospective employees' right to privacy in the fast-growing world of social media. House Bill 3782 makes it illegal for an employer to request an employee's or job candidate's social network account information, such as username or password, in order to gain access to their account or profile. Illinois is the second state to enact such a law.
"Members of the workforce should not be punished for information their employers don't legally have the right to have," Governor Quinn said. "As use of social media continues to expand, this new law will protect workers and their right to personal privacy."
Sponsored by Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), HB 3782 prevents employers from screening potential job candidates or reprimanding current employees based on information from their social network accounts that would otherwise be private. The new law protects workers' privacy and their choice to make certain information from their social network accounts private.
"Employers certainly aren't allowed to ask for the keys to an employee's home to nose around there, and I believe that same expectation of personal privacy and personal space should be extended to a social networking account," said Leader Radogno, who pointed out employers are not allowed to ask employees or job applicants about age, sex, race, or sexual orientation--all information that could be easily gleaned from a social networking site. "This law will not only protect employees' reasonable rights to privacy on the Web, but will shield employers from unexpected legal action."
The law's definition of social networking sites does not include email, and it does not prevent employers from obtaining information in the public domain about current or prospective employees.
"Social networking accounts are places where we document the personal and private aspects of our lives, and employers have realized they can get answers to questions they are already prohibited from asking by gaining unfettered access to our accounts," Ford said. "This legislation may protect employers from future lawsuits as much as it protects employees and jobseekers."
The law is effective Jan. 1.