A questionable tactic taken up by employers as part of their pre-employment investigation should now be coming to an end, thanks to the Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act, which was signed into law by Governor Quinn earlier this week. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the new bill will make it illegal for employers to request their applicants' social network passwords as a condition of employment.
Why were employers asking for passwords? Well, think about how much information is on a typical person's social network. There's hobbies, interests, their favorite profanities, and perhaps even their Spotify listening history. (Note to self: remove "Man! I Feel Like a Woman" from my listening history.) By snooping on your profile and messages, an employer can get a deeper look into who you are.
However, they also can find out information that they are not allowed to consider, such as religion, age, or marital status.
The new law, which takes effect on January 1, contains no exceptions. That means your Twitter, Facebook, dormant MySpace profile, and even your snarky Reddit account are all yours.
If you haven't taken advantage of the privacy settings, employers can still look at whatever you have available publicly. The law prohibits asking for passwords. If you're broadcasting those images of you doing a beer bong shirtless while listening to Snoop Lion, well, don't expect to get the job. Unless of course, you're applying to work in a head shop.
Until the law takes effect in January 1, we'd still recommend deactivating your accounts or maxing out the privacy settings, at least until you are employed. Even when it takes effect, be sure to review all of your publicly available information. Ask yourself, "could this offend the most uptight person I know?"
And please, take down that picture from last weekend.
- Discuss Your Case With a Chicago Employment Lawyer (FindLaw)
- Illinois Becomes Third State to Pass Social Media Privacy Law (Wall Street Journal Law Blog)
- Job Interviewers Asking for Facebook Passwords (FindLaw's Chicago Employment Law Blog)
- Cicero City Worker Suspended for Racist Facebook Post (FindLaw's Chicago Employment Law Blog)