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Can Employers Ask for Access to Social Media Profiles?

Employee using social media at work

In the past decade, social media has taken over the lives of Americans. It is difficult to find someone who does not use social media on a regular basis. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram are all the rage among people of all ages.

With social media so popular, sometimes lines are crossed when it comes to work-use and personal use. Many employees use social media during work hours, and this has employers concerned about workers sharing trade secrets, badmouthing the company, violating noncompete agreements, downloading malware and other viruses, and opening the door to other legal issues. As such, many employers have gone about requesting employees to hand over username and passwords to social media profiles.

This has gone too far. While employers do have legitimate concerns, employers can only monitor employees to certain limits. Asking for usernames and passwords is an invasion of privacy. Employees have the right to use social media on their own time without employer interference. Each state has its own laws when it comes to social media to protect employees and penalize nosy employers who want to see what workers are doing once they clock out of work.

New York Laws Regarding Social Media

New York does not have laws in place banning access to social media at this moment, but legislation is currently underway. Here are a couple of proposed laws that are currently pending in the process:

B. 192:

This bill will protect the privacy of the social media accounts of current and prospective employees.

B. 5485:

This bill would prohibit an employer or educational institution from requesting usernames and passwords for personal accounts from employees, applicants or students.

B. 5504:

This bill prohibits discrimination against a person who refuses to provide social media usernames and passwords.

B. 5995:

This bill relates to the uniform employee and student online privacy protection act, which protects online accounts.

B. 1573:

This bill prohibits an employer or educational institution from requesting usernames and passwords from employees, applicants or students.

B. 4167:

This bill protects the privacy of social media accounts of current and prospective employees.

Creating a Social Media Policy

While employers cannot request social media account information, they can put policies in place so that employees know what to expect. For example, you may want employees to share company-specific messages, but at the same time, you want to prevent security and legal risks. The goal is to have consistency.

Contact a New York Employment Law Attorney

 Employers frequently search the internet to find out personal information about current employees as well as applicants. Some take this practice too far and ask for access to social media profiles. This can be considered an invasion of privacy.

New York does not have specific laws in place preventing employers from accessing social media profiles. This can lead to some gray areas when it comes to your legal rights and options. Seek help from the experienced New York employment law attorneys at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. Schedule a consultation by calling our office at (800) 240-9269.

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