New Florida Bill May Restrict Employer Access to Social Media
Are your social media profiles private? Can an employer or potential employer request to see your social media accounts? Currently there are employers who base hiring decisions, promotions, and even consideration for firing based on a candidate’s social media footprint. This may all change soon in Florida.
What is Florida Senate Bill 186?
If passed, this bill will make it illegal for a Florida employer to require access to a person’s social media accounts. This law covers employees and potential employees. The same bill died in committee during last year’s legislative session but this year it’s made it out of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.
In addition to social media profiles, the bill would cover employees’ (and potential employees’) instant messages, photos, videos, blogs, and audio recordings. Florida employers who violate this would be subject to civil action. Social media accounts for business would not be protected under this bill.
If this bill passed, Florida would by no means be the first state to pass it. Thirty other states have already passed similar legislation to protect employees’ rights.
Why is This Bill Needed?
It is believed that approximately ¾ of recruiters and ½ of employees turn to potential employees’ social media profiles before making a hiring decision. Many admitted to not extending a job offer due to references to drug use, violence, heavy drinking, and sexually offensive materials.
As candidates become increasingly more tuned in to employers’ practices, they began locking profiles down and enacting privacy settings. Now, many employers are requesting passwords so that they may look at the profiles. Senate Bill 186 would make this illegal.
This bill protects the candidates and Florida employers. If employers scan social media profiles they could discover things about the employee that they are not entitled to know such as a pregnancy, ethnicity, and whether they suffer from a particular medical or mental condition or other disability. Making decisions based on any of these things can lead to discrimination claims.
Facebook has also gotten involved in the subject. The company has made requesting passwords a violation of the site’s Code of Conduct. The Federal government is currently debating whether requesting someone’s private log-in information violates federal privacy and discrimination laws.
While this bill would do a lot for employee rights and privacy, it’s important to point out that the potential law only stipulates the employer can’t require it. It says nothing about the employer gaining access through public channels. If you have something out on the Internet that you do not want associated with your professional life, lock it down using the privacy settings on the site or, better yet, don’t put it on a public forum at all.
If you believe your employment rights have been violated and you have been turned down for a job or promotion based on discriminatory reasons such as race, gender, disability, ethnic origin, sexual preference, or other illegal reasons, call the attorneys at Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., today.