Employers might have a pretty tough time getting access to their employees’ Twitter and Facebook accounts if a new bill passes through the Florida Legislature this year.
SB 186, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, would make it illegal for any employer in Florida to require access to a social media account of an employee or prospective employee.
The bill passed through its first stop Monday afternoon, sailing through the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.
“Social media accounts” wouldn’t be just limited to Instagram, Facebook and the like -- videos, photographs, blogs, audio recordings, instant messages and e-mails would also fall under the protection of SB 186.
“The states are very behind in how we deal with electronics and social media,” Sen. Clemens told the Senate Committee on Commerce and Tourism Monday. “We are really behind the curve.”
The same bill sponsored by Clemens died last year in the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.
Employers sometimes request the passwords to employees’ social media accounts, raising legal concerns for those who believe such information is a violation of privacy and could have potentially harmful effects for an employee sharing posts typically targeted towards their own friends.
Clemens’ legislation would also prohibit an employer from failing or refusing to hire a prospective employee as a result of the prospective employee’s refusal to allow access to his or her social media accounts.
Any employer violating the legislation could suffer civil action, but an employee or prospective employee would need to bring the civil action within two years after the incident occurred.
Exceptions could be made if an employee uses a specific social media account primarily for the employer’s business purposes. The legislation also does not prevent an employer from looking at an employee’s public social media page.
If passed, Florida would join 30 other states that already have banned public and private sector employers from getting access to employees’ social media accounts. California, New Jersey, and New Hampshire are just some states that have passed laws to protect employees from employers looking into their social media accounts.
Senators debated whether it was an employer’s right to know what their employees were up to in their spare time, especially if that content was posted onto their private social media accounts.
They also expressed concerns over dealing with bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace. Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, said employers shouldn’t have to worry about getting involved in potential legal issues over sexual harassment on social media accounts.
“You shouldn't even know you're being sexually harassed on social media if you're only doing work on your work computer,” she explained.
Sen. Clemens said employers shouldn’t need to access an employee’s social media account.
"You shouldn't need to have someone's password to address the issue [of sexual harassment,]” he said. “Privacy is privacy. I'm seeking to try to protect that."
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