The Senate Labor Committee has moved bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senators Kevin O’Toole (R-40) and Diane Allen (R-7) to protect the e-privacy of job seekers.
“Social networking users have the right and freedom to use their accounts to share private messages with family and friends, express their religions and sexual preferences, and post images and videos with family and friends,” O’Toole said. “By no means should an employer be able to forcibly access such a broad scope of personal information against an applicant’s will. There are plenty of other steps in a job application process for employers to gain a profound understanding of an applicant’s experience, fitness and personality.”
“Applicants should not have to choose between preserving their privacies and earning an income,” Allen added. “Employers should be prohibited from demanding access to applicants’ private social networking communications, just as it is illegal to open another person’s mail. Certain social networking websites prohibit the dissemination of log-in information, but given recent reports of employers requiring account access around the country, we clearly need a law to protect applicants’ privacies.”
Senator O’Toole’s and Allen’s S-1898, merged in committee with S-1915, prohibits an employer from requiring an applicant to provide online passwords or in any other way provide access to their private accounts. It also prohibits an employer from requiring an individual to waive or limit any protection granted under the bill as a condition of applying for or receiving an offer of employment or admission.
Violators face $1,000 fines for an initial violation and $2,500 for subsequent breaches. This legislation allows applicants to sue for appropriate injunctive relief and damages, including reasonable attorneys’ fees and court costs.
“We are open to consider the business cost concerns that a few organizations and Senators discussed in committee today,” O’Toole concluded. “We will work with colleagues to establish balanced measure for applicants and employers, while assuring job seekers are not discriminated or retaliated against for exercising their e-privacy rights.”
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