The vote by the Illinois Senate, 55-0, in favor of HB 3782 may put Illinois ahead of California and other states to follow Maryland in making it illegal for Illinois employers to ask employees or applicants for their Facebook and other social media passwords. The bill awaits signature by Governor Pat Quinn, which was overwhelmingly approved by the House in March.

HB 3782 would amend the State’s Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act to make it illegal for employers to ask potential and current employees for their social media passwords:

It shall be unlawful for any employer to request or require any employee or prospective employee to provide any password or other related account information in order to gain access to the employee’s or prospective employee’s account or profile on a social networking website or to demand access in any manner to an employee’s or prospective employee’s account or profile on a social networking website.

However, the law would not limit an employer’s right to: 

  • have policies to regulate employees’ use of the employer’s electronic equipment, Internet use, social networking site use, and electronic mail use; or
  • monitor the employee’s use of the employer’s electronic equipment and the employer’s electronic mail.

The law also would not prohibit employers from reviewing information about employees or applicants that is in the public domain, so long as the employer complies with other applicable law. Of course, even information in the public domain can have traps for the unwary employer, such as learning about an applicant’s family medical history on his or her Facebook site which would raise issues under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.