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Politics

Senate Committee Passes Bill Restricting Employer Access to Employees' Social Media Accounts

October 5, 2015 - 6:15pm

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."

Reach Allison Nielsen at allison@sunshinesstatenews.com.

 

Comments

I'll never vote for another Democrat - I learned that lesson in 1974 after voting for Mike Dukakis, because he promised not to raise taxes in the Commonwealth - but a tip of the hat to Sen. Clemens for a common-sense piece of legislation. I have no problem with anyone seeing what I post online, but I'll be damned if I allow a stranger access to the control panels of my websites. That's legalized hacking. Screw that. I have told more than one employer to go pound sand, in no uncertain terms, for that very reason; once or twice, I laughed and said "Give me yours first, and I'll be back in touch with you in five days." Funny how strangers don't like that...

GO SENATOR CLEMENS ! You are absolutely right ! "Privacy rights" are being placed on a "slippery slope" all over our country. ("On the other hand", if one places all of his/her "doings" on a PUBLIC site.....Well 'good luck' with that...you've just "shot yourself in the foot", and might as well go ahead and get Tattoos on your neck and every other 'uncovered' place...because nobody is going to hire you (not even me), regardless of how many Masters Degrees you have...You have made yourself a distraction to my business). Having said that, I would hire the person who "sold" women on the myth that they would look good with tattoos where all could see them...THAT person is an incomparable "sales person" who could probably sell ANYONE without an original thought ANYTHING !

Undermining a Business from the INSIDE is NOT a way to keep the jobs coming, and Social media can and will destroy more businesses then outside forces. NO employee should shoot themselves in the foot just to Rant. And if you want to rant, do it face to face with friends and NOT on a website the company's competitors can use to destroy the job YOU now have...this is disturbing and stupid at the same time

Looking at public posts are one thing - having password access to the account is something else entirely & should be prohibited - esp since most EULAs prohibit sharing of passwords

Employers of any size, whether aligned with democrap or repugnacan political beliefs, should be allowed to view prospective employees and active employees social media information and any other background checks they want to do. It is their company and they need to do whatever they believe is good for their company. Looking at social media postings and back ground checks provides a very good means to learn what kind of person the prospective or current employee is. Why would any employer want to hire someone that is a bad representative of the company's objective? Government, in certain instances, already forces employers to take on misfits and undesirables. That's just not right! Employers need to be free of that government regulation.

This will not pass, republicans want total control. (as usual).

That comment alone could get you fired or keep you from getting a job.

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