Increasing numbers of Americans use social media websites to interact with friends, family, and coworkers, even during working hours. Recently, employers have begun asking employees for the login information to their personal online accounts, arguing that such disclosures are necessary to protect sensitive and proprietary information. Many employees believe these acts constitute an invasion of their personal privacy.
Beginning in 2012, state legislators began to introduce legislation to protect employee privacy and prevent employers from requesting passwords to personal Internet accounts as a requirement to get or keep a job. On May 24, 2012, Ohio State Senator Charleta B. Taveres introduced Senate Bill No. 351, which prohibits employers, employment agencies, personnel placement services, and labor organizations from requiring an applicant or employee to provide access to private electronic accounts of the applicant or employee.
It is important for employers to know the permissible boundaries when attempting to gain access to employees’ private electronic accounts. Under the proposed legislation, employers that act in violation of the statute are subject to a fine in the amount of up to one thousand dollars for the first violation and up to two thousand dollars for each subsequent violation. If an employer is unsure as to the requirements of the regulations or whether their workplace is compliant, they should consult with their employment counsel.
By: Sean P. Sheridan