In 2014, at least 25 states have legislation pending which would limit an employer from accessing personal social media. Last week Oklahoma joined that list.
These days, employers monitor individuals’ social media for a number of purposes. With job applicants, employers may review a candidate’s social media communication as a form of vetting — i.e., to learn more about the applicant and to help guide the selection process. For existing employees, companies may monitor social media to ensure that proprietary information is not being disclosed or to police potentially unlawful actions by members of their workforce.
Companies’ social media searches have been challenged as an invasion of privacy. Other people have claimed that information gained about an applicant or employee through social media monitoring was used unlawfully or discriminatorily. Employee groups around the country have likened an employer’s search of employees’ social media communication to stealing a worker’s personal diary.
On February 12, 2014, the Oklahoma House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 2372 restricting companies from accessing applicant and employees’ private social media. Under the Bill, an Oklahoma employer may not require a job candidate or employee to disclose their username or password, if the account’s contents are private and not available to the general public. Nor may an employer request the job candidate or employee to make their privacy protected social media account accessible. Further, an Oklahoma employer may not refuse to hire a prospective employee or fire an existing employee for refusing to allow the employer access to a private social media account.
House Bill 2372 now moves to the Oklahoma Senate for consideration, and we will follow its progress.