It’s no secret that the social media landscape can be a minefield for employees and potential hires. A risqué photo or a dirty joke posted online could cost you your job. Now, some employers are taking it one step further by requiring employees to hand over their passwords to social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter.

According to a new survey by FindLaw.com, most employees aren’t having it. Eighty-three percent of American adults say that employers should not be able to obtain passwords to personal social media accounts, FindLaw reports. The disagreement has sparked a debate about just how far employers can go.

Some employers argue that access to personal accounts is necessary to protect their trade secrets, comply with federal financial regulations, and protect themselves from legal liability. However, others contend that the practice is an invasion of employee privacy.

Many state legislators seem to agree. At least ten states have passed laws that prevent employers from requesting passwords to personal accounts in order to obtain or keep a job, according to Westlaw and the National Association of State Legislators. Similar legislation is pending in at least 26 other states as well.

Employers’ access to personal information on social network sites is an increasingly controversial subject,” said Stephanie Rahlfs, an attorney-editor at FindLaw.com. “Many people are sensitive that information regarding their personal lives should not be available to their employers. In addition, if an employer, while viewing an employee’s social media page, were to discover information regarding an employee’s protected characteristics, such as religious preferences or confidential medical information, it could open the door for potential legal issues.”

As the leading source for online legal information, FindLaw.com provides both employers and employees with a wide range of articles and resources on their respective rights and responsibilities. To learn more, take a look at the FindLaw Employment Law Center.

Michelle Croteau, Director of Marketing Communications
with Corey Licht, FindLaw Audience Team

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