If Governor Martin O’Malley signs it, a bill passed by the Maryland Legislature will make Maryland the first state to prohibit employers from asking or requiring their prospective or current employees to give access to their personal online accounts. The bill would also prohibit Maryland employers from taking or threatening disciplinary action because of an employee’s refusal to disclose passwords and related information and for refusing to hire an applicant as the result of the applicant’s refusal to disclose this information. If signed by the Governor, this landmark legislation will take effect October 1, 2012.
The legislation could also serve as a model for other states on an issue that is gaining national attention. Legislators in several states including California and Illinois have introduced, or plan to introduce, similar legislation. Similarly, bi-partisan support has been growing on the federal level to address what some consider to be a fundamental violation of privacy rights.
If signed into law, Maryland employers can expect regulations to follow. These regulations will provide the details and mechanism to implement this law in the workplace. As we await further details, employers who have social media policies or procedures in place that require prospective or current employees to disclose passwords or similar information should reconsider these policies and may want to consult with an attorney before the legislation takes effect.
For a copy of the legislation or more information, please contact Melissa Jones at (410) 752-9765.