A law that took effect January 1 will protect job seekers and employees in Maryland from requests for social media passwords. The impetus for the new legislation in was the 2010 case of former Division of Corrections officer Robert Collins. In the course of a standard recertification interview following a leave of absence, Mr. Collins was asked for his Facebook username and password. He reluctantly complied, feeling that he had no other real alternative at the time. While the department insisted at the time that their social media screening procedures were voluntary, Mr. Collins complied because, as he stated in a subsequent interview, ‘It almost seemed that my compliance was compulsory.’ At the time, it was standard procedure for the department to request username and password information for all social media accounts from new and recertifying applicants, and was considered another routine step in their background screening process. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) became involved with Mr. Collins’ case in February 2012, and news of the case spread rapidly across social and traditional media outlets. Legislation introduced in both chambers of the Maryland legislature last year passed easily, and Governor O’Malley signed The Labor and Employment—Username and Password Privacy Protection and Exclusions bill into law in May 2012.
The new law should provide protections for both prospective (and current) employees and for employers, as this article by Kenneth Artz of the Heartland Institute illustrates. The law will at once protect a job seeker’s privacy rights, while also providing some protection for employers against lawsuits by shielding them from liability for information they may have obtained during a social media screening.
But how should job seekers, feeling pressure to comply in a challenging employment market, handle a social media request that they feel is inappropriate? Mary Wright, a California-based employment attorney, and Deb Krier, a social media adviser, have put together a great list of suggested responses to this type of request. The takeaway is to respond in such a way that makes it clear—in a polite way—that you will not share this information in such a way that does not compromise your chances at the opportunity.
Was this article helpful? Do you think it could help someone else? Like it on Facebook, give it a +1, tweet it, or e-mail it to your friends. I welcome your comments, questions & feedback. Leave a comment below, or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Subscribe and get notified by e-mail when my next article goes live: Hit the ‘Subscribe’ button above, and then be sure to check your e-mail for a confirmation message with instructions to complete your subscription.