Maryland recently outlawed employer practices of demanding that employees give access to their facebook and similar accounts. That law goes into effect October 1.
Congress has jumped on this bandwagon, introducing similar bills in both houses. ThePassword Protection Act of 2012 would criminalize similar behavior throughout the country. The problem arises when an employer requires its employees to grant access to computer passwords. The bill would outlaw those demands, unless the computers belong to the employer. Meanwhile another bill, called the “Social Networking Online Protection Act,” would also extend to demands that an employee give a password or other access to social networking sites, even on the employer’s computers. That bill limits enforcement to action by the Department of Labor, but does not allow an employee to bring a suit for retaliation or discharge.
In a time when employees work at all hours, within and outside their offices, on computer supplied computers and otherwise, it is difficult to keep clear lines between home and work life, and personal information and company property. Still, when an employer believes it is entitled to free access to see and post on an employee’s facebook account, the line is crossed. Employers should give the impression that they respect the employee’s right to a personal life, even when they expect them to be on call for customers’ emails and phone calls.