Social Media Protection for Job Seekers in Washington State

It hasn’t happened to me, so far, but I’ve heard stories about social media savvy job seekers who have had to turn over their platform passwords to prospective employers as a condition of employment. Or they’ve experienced the interviewer who wants to “watch while they log in”. The intent, of course, is to view the candidate’s private profile, the one nobody sees unless invited in. For what purpose? Most likely to mine information that could be used to disqualify an otherwise perfect candidate.

This won’t happen anymore in Washington State, because Governor Jay Inslee signed S.B. 5211 into law last month. Under this new law, employers may not “coerce an employee or applicant to disclose login information for the employee’s or applicant’s personal social networking account.” Neither can they be coerced to login to their social media account in the employer’s presence in such a way that permits the employer to view the account.  The employer may not take adverse action if the employee or applicant refuses to hand over social media account information.

Washington State is now the eighth state to offer social media account protection to employees and this is a significant victory. The law also outlines penalties for violating the law and allows for filing grievances. There are exceptions, and an employer can monitor intranet social media and the law does not prohibit an employer from seeking login information for an electronic device provided as part of the employee’s relationship with the employer.

Wise use of social media is perhaps the best remedy. Google searches can find almost anyone, unless that person takes great pains against being discoverable. This means it might be a good idea to think before you post that picture of you and your friends at that party Thursday night while you were on that business trip. You have to ask yourself if you really need to have people know that particular bit of information about your private life. Double check your privacy settings!

The other states are Maryland, Illinois, California, Michigan, Utah, Arkansas, and Colorado. New Mexico has a similar law but it applies to prospective employees only.

If you would like to read the text of the legislation, you can find it here:   http://1.usa.gov/10HuPLs

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