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Employment Discrimination and Social Media Passwords


Did you know that if you work in New York, your employer has the right to demand your social media passwords? Although many states have banned this practice, New York is not yet among them.

Thankfully, there is a bill pending in the New York legislature that would ban this practice. Assembly Bill A443D would prohibit employers and educational institutions from requesting or requiring user name and login information including passwords as a condition of hiring, employment status, for use in disciplinary actions, as well as admission decision or enrollment status.

According to the justification for the bill as stated, username and password information "can lead to issues of unfair and discriminatory hiring and admissions practices and constitutes a serious invasion of privacy on the behalf of the employer or school. Employees have the right to make this information either public or private through the websites and they should have every right to maintain this privacy when it comes their work place, classroom, or during an interview or admissions process. In these economic times many people do not have the option to walk away from a job and are forced to submit to this request for fear they will not be hired otherwise. This bill would remedy this issue and leave consumers with their right to privacy and reduce the risk of unfair and discriminatory hiring and admissions practices."

But don't rest easy yet. Even if this bill becomes law, your employer can still legally monitor your social media activity. Some companies have an overbroad social media policy that says you aren't allowed to discuss or disparage the company in social media. This may violate your right to complain about working conditions with coworkers. If corporate snooping reveals that you have a disability, pregnancy, genetic condition or other protected information, you may have a lawsuit against them if they fire you.

As I have stated in previous blog entries, be careful how you use social media, especially with respect to comments about your job. If you file a lawsuit claiming that your employer created a hostile work environment due to some form of discrimination, such as age, race, or sexual harassment, and then you contradict your claims in your social media accounts, your employer's attorneys will find out, and your lawsuit will probably fail.
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