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HB 1777 would amend the Labor Code relating to prohibiting an employer from accessing the personal online accounts of employees and job applicants through electronic communication devices.
HB 1777 would establish that an employer commits an unlawful employment practice if the employer requires or requests that an employee or applicant for employment disclose a user name, password, or other means for accessing a personal online account of the employee or applicant through an electronic communication device or otherwise uses an employee's or applicant's user name, password, or other means to access a personal online account of the employee or applicant through an electronic communication device.
The bill would not prohibit an employer from maintaining lawful workplace policies governing employee usage of employer provided electronic communication devices or personal electronic communication devices during working or billable hours; monitoring, restricting, or prohibiting employee usage of employer provided electronic communication devices or employer-provided e-mail accounts; obtaining information about an employee or applicant for employment that is in the public domain or that is otherwise lawfully obtained; or requesting an employee or applicant for employment to provide a personal e-mail address for the purpose of communicating with the employee or applicant.
The bill prohibits an employer from requiring an employee or applicant for employment to sign a written agreement consenting to the disclosure of the employee's or applicant's user name, password, or other means for accessing a personal online account as a condition of employment or of any term of employment.
This bill would not apply to financial institutions or if there is a mutual written agreement between employer and employee.
HB 1777 would protect applicants and employees from an employer or prospective employer requesting a social media or email account username and or password. On the surface this legislation sounds harmless, but in reality is is just another form of government regulation on the willing interaction between actors in the free market.
Most businesses take care to do some basic vetting of prospective employees to ensure that those individuals are trustworthy and will represent the company well. Browsing a person's social media account is a common practice by many employers.
Browsing a person's public profile is very different than accessing the person's account using their password. Most employees or prospective employees would consider this to be invasive investigation beyond the scope of browsing what a person willingly makes public online.
The most important aspect of all of this is that the employee or prospective employee has the right to refuse the employer access to their personal accounts. This may be difficult for someone who wants a particular job but it is within the realm of their personal responsibility to determine what is more important to them, their privacy or a particular job. It is not the responsibility of the state to prohibit an employer from making a request that an employee can rightly refuse.
For these reasons we oppose HB 1777.
It is worth further noting that the free market already has mechanisms for dealing with this problem to the extent that it is a problem. Any employer engaging in this type of activity will likely find itself widely shamed in public online review forums and will likely have a difficult time finding qualified candidates for employment until they change their business practices.