The days in which an employer could request social media passwords from employees and prospective employees are coming to an end in Illinois. Continuing to request or use such social media account information could find the offending individual guilty of a petty offense, as well as being found liable for statutory damages, attorneys’ fees, court costs, and actual damages caused to the employee or prospective employee.
Becoming just the second state to pass such a law, on August 1, 2012, in an effort to further protect workers’ privacy in Illinois, Governor Quinn signed into law an amendment to the Illinois Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act (“Act”). The Amendment has quickly earned the nickname the “Facebook Bill”.
This amendment, which will go into effect on January 1, 2013, makes it illegal for any employer to request or require an employee or prospective employee to provide any password or other related account information in order to gain access to an employee’s or prospective account or profile on a social networking website (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.). The amendment also prohibits employers from demanding access in any manner to an employee’s or prospective employee’s account or profile on a social networking website.
The Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act, 820 ILCS 55/5, applies all employers and makes it “unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise disadvantage any individual, with respect to compensation, terms, or conditions or privileges of employment because the individual uses lawful products off the premises of the employer during nonworking hours.” The Facebook Bill is the first amendment to the Act.
Nothing in the new law will limit an employer’s right to set and maintain lawful workplace policies regarding internet use, social networking site use, and email use. The law also does not prevent the employer from monitoring employee’s use of equipment and email that is owned by the employer. The law also does not prohibit employers from obtaining information about an employee or prospective employee that is made available to the public.
The passing of this law further demonstrates to employers the need to consult experienced individuals on employment matters, particularly regarding social media and other fast changing areas. This is especially true with companies that operate across multiple states, as your company policies must conform to the varying laws of each state. As more states adapt to the changing employment landscape brought on by technological advances, the need to consult a knowledgeable attorney to aid in crafting company practices is apparent.
If you need help ensuring that your workplace policies, or specifically your company’s social media policy, comply with this and other laws, please contact Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC at (847)253-8800.