|Rep. Jesse J. White
46th Legislative District
Allegheny, Beaver, and Washington counties
White’s bill to protect privacy of social media users reported out of committee
HARRISBURG, April 16 – State Rep. Jesse White’s bill to prohibit employers from requiring social media users to reveal usernames and passwords as a condition of employment was reported out of the House Labor and Industry Committee today.
House Bill 1130, also known as the Social Media Privacy Protection Act, was approved 25-0 and is now headed to the full House of Representatives for consideration.
White said he introduced the legislation after the practice made national headlines last year, when a state corrections officer in Maryland complained that the Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services sought his password to search personal Facebook posts during a re-certification interview.
As a result, Maryland became the first state to ban the practice in 2012.
“Employers should not be able to take advantage of a tough job market by forcing employees or prospective employees to give away their personal information,” White said. “This is the online equivalent of forcing someone to give up their house key so an employer can go and dig around through their underwear drawer, and this invasion of fundamental privacy rights should be stopped.”
Following Maryland’s lead, similar workplace protections were enacted in Arkansas, California, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico and Utah, while a similar bill in New Jersey was recently sent to the governor.
White added that companies open themselves to lawsuits by this practice because viewing an individual’s private profile might uncover membership in a protected class that the applicant might not wish to publically disclose. In this case, the employer would be privy to sensitive and protected personal information, increasing its exposure to discrimination lawsuits.
“Social media users should always use caution about what they post online, because employers do have time-tested and effective screening methods to secure quality employees,” White said. "However, this type of password-protected access could give employers information they could never ask about otherwise under federal law, such as whether you are pregnant or ill."
White also emphasized that the bill does not restrict an employer's right to maintain workplace policies or monitor an employee's use of electronic communications devices, the Internet, social media or email accounts while at work.
White offered a similar bill, House Bill 2332, during the 2011-12 legislative session.