Proposed Illinois Law Bans Social Network Checks

There was a bill introduced recently in the Illinois state legislature that would ban Illinois employers from asking job applicants to supply their user name, password, or other related account information for any social networking site on which the applicant maintains an account or personal profile. The bill is intended to combat a trend among employers to screen potential employees by reviewing the content of their Facebook or Myspace pages. Illinois is the second state to consider such legislation. A similar bill died in Maryland earlier this year. It will be interesting to see what happens in Illinois. But regardless, there are still a few things for the employer and the applicant to remember. For the applicant, note that the bill only prohibits the employer from requesting password information. It does not prohibit the employer from checking out publicly available information about you. Think about what you post and where you post it. For the employer, if you choose to review prospective employees’ social network sites you better be consistent. If you only check out the sites of members of a “protected class” (e.g. women, African Americans, Muslims) you are at risk for a discrimination claim. And that claim doesn’t arise because you checked, but it arises based on how you decided who to check. Be careful.