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Bill proposes to make employees’ private social media accounts off-limits to employers

Rep. John Lesch describes HF1196 to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Division. The bill would prohibit an employer from requiring employees or job applicants to disclose their username or password to a social media account. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Keep your passwords private. Tell no one your username. These rules are basic first steps to protect your online privacy.

HF1196 proposes to make sure no employer can demand this information to gain access to an employee’s social media accounts.

“We don’t let our employers into our homes or our bedrooms,” said Rep. John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul), the bill’s sponsor. “We should not let them into our digital lives without permission.”

The bill was laid over Monday by the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Division for possible inclusion in the division’s omnibus bill. The companion, SF1432, is sponsored by Sen. D. Scott Dibble (DFL-Mpls) and is awaiting action by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.

HF1196 would prohibit an employer from requiring or forcing an employee or applicant for a job to:

  • tell the employer their username or password to a social media account;
  • show the employer their social media account; or
  • give the employer access by adding them as a friend or follower to a private account or require the employee to make an account public.

Employers would not be allowed to take negative action against an employee or refuse to hire an applicant if they refuse to share their social media information.

Employers could still view social media posts already made public by a current or potential employee, said Lesch.

The bill would provide some exceptions for employers, including allowing them to request specific content on an employee or job applicant’s social media account so the employer can verify that the content does not violate laws and regulatory requirements.

“Every person should have the right to decide who they want to share personal, private information with,” said Ben Feist, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota.

The expectations of privacy for personal exchanges of information through social media “will be compromised if employees and prospective employees know they may be forced to provide employers access to these accounts,” he said.

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