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Illinois has become the second state to ban employers from asking employees or job candidates for their Facebook or other social networking account information — an effort aimed at protecting workers' privacy.
This week, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a new bill that will make it illegal for an employer to request an employee's or job candidate's social network username or password in order to gain access to their account or profile.
"Members of the workforce should not be punished for information their employers don’t legally have the right to have," Quinn said. "As use of social media continues to expand, this new law will protect workers and their right to personal privacy."
The law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2013, prevents employers from screening potential job candidates or reprimanding current employees based on information from their social network accounts that would otherwise be private.
"Employers certainly aren’t allowed to ask for the keys to an employee's home to nose around there, and I believe that same expectation of personal privacy and personal space should be extended to a social networking account," said Illinois Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, who co-sponsored the bill. She added that employers are not allowed to ask employees or job applicants about age, sex, race or sexual orientation — all information that could be easily gleaned from a social networking site.
Since the law does not stop employers from obtaining information available in the public domain about current or prospective employees, Radogno warns employees to be careful about what they post online.
"Be discreet and be smart about what you put there on the Internet because it is still out there and it can affect," she said. "So while this affects employers, you have a responsibility for what you put out there and you will suffer or enjoy the consequences of that based on your decision-making."
In May, Maryland became the first state to protect employees' social networking privacy rights when it enacted similar legislation.
A number of other states, including Delaware, New Jersey and Washington, are considering similar bans.