Ban On Employer Demands For Worker, Applicant Website Passwords–Maryland

The Maryland Senate recently referredSenate Bill 971 which prohibits Maryland employersfrom demanding that workers and job applicants turn over their passwords to specific websites or web-based accounts.

Under the bill, employers would be prohibited from refusing to hire applicants and disciplining, terminating, or taking other adverse employment action against employees who refuse to provide their passwords.The bill also bans employers’ threats of such action.

The bill was introduced in response to employers’ asking applicants and employees for their passwords as part of background checks to see the content posted by the individuals on social networking sites (e.g., Facebook ).S.B. 971 would, however, permit employers to require workers to disclose their passwords only to the employers’ internal computer systems.

This proposed Maryland law, and case law from New Jersey, should alert employers that utilizing social media in their hiring, discipline, or termination decisions is under scrutiny.