Ohio Senate considers barring prospective employers from asking for social media passwords

By Marc Kovac | R-C Capital Bureau Published:

COLUMBUS -- Prospective employers would be barred from requesting job applicants' social media site usernames and passwords under legislation being considered in the Ohio Senate.

Sen. Charleta Tavares offered Senate Bill 45 as a means of stopping employers from forced access to Facebook and other web-based accounts and using the information gathered to discipline current employees or reject potential new hires.

"I understand the need for employers to take proper precautions in order to ensure that they are investing and hiring candidates who are qualified, dependable and astute," Tavares told a lawmaker panel. "There are procedures in place, such as background checks and drug screenings, that allow employers to obtain information about employees and applicants. ... However, it is an invasion of personal privacy for an employer to obtain user information and/or log onto an individual's account."

The legislation would prohibit employers, employment agencies and labor groups from requiring applicants or employees to provide access to private electronic accounts, according to an analysis compiled by the state's legislative service commission.

Those who violate the prohibitions could face fines and damages under the state's civil rights law.

Employers could still monitor employees' or applicants' online activities, including postings that are publicly available.

"This bill aims to protect the privacy of job applicants and does not apply to work-related accounts," Tavares said.

She added that six states have already passed comparable legislation, while more than 20 others are considering similar law changes.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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