Hand over that Password!!!!!

As you know, there has been a lot of gnashing of teeth lately over employers requiring employees and candidates for employment to hand over their passwords to social media sites like Facebook and Google +.  You may recall that I wrote about a couple of Senators writing an open letter to the EEOC.  I even mentioned that a bunch of bills were pending at the federal level dealing with privacy in one way or another.  You can see the post here.

What I did not tell you was what was going on at the state level.  I thought I would.  Currently pending in the Michigan State Legislature is House Bill 5523.  You can see it here.  The bill is pretty short and is designed “ to prohibit employers and educational institutions from requiring certain individuals to disclose information that allows access to certain social networking accounts; to prohibit employers and educational institutions from taking certain actions for failure to disclose information that allows access to certain social networking accounts; and to provide remedies.”  Section 3 of the bill says:

Sec. 3. An employer shall not do any of the following:

(a) Request an employee or an applicant for employment to disclose access information associated with the employee’s or applicant’s social networking account.

(b) Discharge, discipline, fail to hire, or otherwise discriminate against an employee or applicant for employment for failure to disclose access information associated with the employee’s or applicant’s social networking account.

Violate this section and according to the bill, you have committed a misdemeanor and can go to jail for up to 93 days.  That’s right, YOU CAN GO TO JAIL!  And the person whose private access information you want to get can sue you for actual damages or $1,000, whichever is greater.  They also get costs and attorney fees just in case we needed to give the plaintiff’s bar incentive to take these cases.

Don’t think this bill will ever pass?  Think again.  Maryland has already passed a similar law.  You can read about it at Molly DiBianca’s excellent Delaware Employment Law blogCalifornia is about to become state number 2.