Over the past couple of years, this blog has discussed some of the new issues that employers should consider in connection with social media in the work place.  (For example, see http://www.employerdefenselaw.com/legislation/should-employers-and-facebook-be-friends/ ).  A recent development in Illinois gives employers yet one more issue to consider on that front. 

On August 1, 2012, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a law which prevents employers from requesting or requiring employees or job applicants to provide social media passwords.  The law amends Illinois’ Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act (820 ILCS 55/10) and becomes effective on January 1, 2013.  Despite the new law’s prohibition on employers accessing employees’ or applicants’ password-protected social media accounts, the law does not prevent employers from:

  • Maintaining policies to control the use of the employer’s computers, electronic devices, and email;
  • Monitoring employees’ usage of the employer’s email; or
  • Accessing information about employees and applicants that is public or not password protected.

Illinois becomes only the second state (after Maryland) to pass a law restricting an employer’s ability to request access to a social media account.