Earlier this year, Maryland enacted Labor and Employment Code §3-712, becoming the first state to pass a law explicitly prohibiting employers from requesting or requiring employees or applicants to disclose their usernames and passwords for their personal social media accounts. The law also prohibits an employer from discharging, disciplining, or penalizing the employee (or threatening to do so) or refusing to hire an applicant for refusal to disclose this information.
This law only applies to Maryland employers, but employers across the nation should take note as a number of other states are contemplating similar laws. Illinois’ version has already passed both legislative houses and is likely to become law within the next couple of months. California, Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, and Washington are also contemplating their own versions of the law. The federal government has introduced similar bills in both the Senate and House as well.
While the need for such legislation has been debated, there is undeniably a growing trend among the states to introduce legislation prohibiting employers from asking employees or applicants for their social media log-in information. In response, employers should take steps now to account for this growing trend, such as reviewing and revising their internal policies and procedures so that they are consistent with the legislation. Further, employers should communicate these revised policies and procedures across the company so that hiring personnel are aware of what they can and can not ask from employees or applicants.
We will continue to monitor this arena for developments.