Aug
19
2014

Employers who view applicants' or employees' social media profiles as a useful way to evaluate their behavior outside of the workplace now need to make sure state laws allow it.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), more states are passing or considering laws to protect employees and applicants from the prying eyes of employers. On Aug. 1, 2014, New Hampshire became the 18th state to legally prohibit employers from requesting access to the social media log-in credentials of current or prospective employees, SHRM reported.

As it stands, the following states have passed laws meant to protect the online privacy of employees or job-seekers:

  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New Hampshire
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

In addition to those 18 states, at least 28 others have similar legislation that has been introduced or is pending. Past efforts to create a federal social media workplace privacy law have already produced two failed attempts, indicating that the issue will likely continue to be handled on a state-by-state basis, Eric Meyer, labor attorney with Dilworth Paxson LLP in Philadelphia, told SHRM.

SHRM offered a few tips for employers to help their employees stay on the safe side of social media use, including:

  • Offer clear social media policies and explain to employees what will and will not be tolerated.
  • Encourage employees to test their privacy settings to ensure that their posts are only accessible to people they specify.
  • Encourage employees to post content that they would not mind their boss seeing.

Related reading

A recent study in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association surveyed 1,594 AAHA members to learn about veterinarians' personal use of Facebook, their knowledge of privacy settings, their beliefs about professionalism and accountability online, and factors that contribute to their disclosure of information on Facebook.

Read about the study's findings and some tips for employees to use Facebook more safely.

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