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Virginia May Soon Join Maryland in Prohibiting Employers from Asking for Social Media Passwords

Virginia appears poised to join Maryland and a handful of other states that ban employers from asking current employees and applicants for access to their social media accounts, like Facebook. Earlier this month, the Virginia legislature passed a bill that precludes an employer from requesting or compelling an employee to: 1) divulge passwords or usernames for the employee’s social media accounts; or 2) add the employer to the contacts associated with the employee’s social media accounts. The restrictions also apply to applicants for employment. It is still permissible under the law for an employer to seek access information to an employee’s social media accounts, but only if the information is reasonably needed to investigate allegations of unlawful employee activity or necessary to comply with other laws. Unless vetoed, the law will become effective by the end of March 2015, or sooner.

Maryland was the first state in the nation to make it unlawful for employers to ask current employees and applicants for access information to their social media accounts. Signed into law by then-Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Maryland law prohibits an employer from requesting or requiring “that an employee or applicant disclose any user name, password or other means for accessing a personal account” through an “electronic communications device,” which includes computers, telephones, personal digital assistants, and other similar devices.” Applicability of the proposed law is broad, defining an “employer” as including State and local government units as well as any agent, representative or designee of the employer. The law is codified at Maryland Labor & Employment Code Annotated § 3-712.

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