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Fla.: Lawmakers Fail to Pass Social Media Password Protections

By Rita Zeidner  6/13/2014
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The Florida legislature adjourned May 2, 2014, without approving a measure preventing employers from requesting or requiring access to current or prospective employees’ social media accounts.

Senate Bill SB198 and House Bill 527  failed to make it out of committee. The bills would have prohibited employers from requesting or requiring access to an employee’s or applicant's social media account and from refusing to hire or otherwise retaliating against an employee who refuses to provide a password. 

State legislators in various states have been attempting to prevent employers from seeking social media passwords from employees and applicants since 2012. (Some states have similar legislation to protect students in public colleges and universities from having to grant access to their social networking accounts.)

As of May 30, 2014, such measures were introduced or pending in at least 28 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Four states — Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wisconsin — passed measures this year and Maine approved a measure to study the issue.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently addressed legal issues surrounding the use of social media. Its Office of Federal Operations found that a claim of racial harassment due to a co-worker's Facebook postings could go forward. Additionally, in response to a letter from Senators Charles Schumer and Richard Blumenthal, the agency reiterated its long-standing position that personal information—such as that gleaned from social media postings—may not be used to make employment decisions on prohibited bases, such as race, gender, national origin, color, religion, age, disability or genetic information.

The agency is now considering comments it received earlier this year during a comment period relating to discrimination and social media.

Rita Zeidner is a freelance business writer and former senior writer for HR Magazine.

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