Outlook: Oklahoma bill blocks employer access to personal social media

By RANDY KREHBIEL, Tulsa World Published: April 27, 2014
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Employers who would never dream of demanding to tap an employee's home phone or read his personal mail sometimes have a completely different idea when it comes to social media.

They want account names.

They want passwords.

It is unclear how many employers actually demand access to private social media accounts, but apparently it is enough to cause more than half the states to at least consider banning the practice. At least 10 states, including Arkansas, have enacted laws making it illegal to request user names and passwords of private accounts.

Oklahoma could be among the next states to do so.

House Bill 2372, by Rep. John Trebilcock, R-Broken Arrow, passed the state House of Representatives 93-0 in February. Last week, the Senate approved the measure, which would prohibit employers from requesting or requiring current or potential employees to give them access to personal social media accounts, such as Facebook and Twitter.

The bill, also co-authored by Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, moves back to the House for consideration.

“As far as I am concerned, that’s like an employer telling you if you want to work here or stay employed here, you have to let us go through your personal mail and the contents of your home,” Loveless said. “That would be a huge breach of your personal privacy.”

“I was a little surprised the State Chamber of Commerce didn’t rise up and say something about it,” said Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City. “On the whole, the State Chamber of Commerce likes to have as much control over whom they hire as possible. And so that was the biggest surprise.”

But according to a 2013 Bloomberg Law article, even some employers support initiatives such as Trebilcock’s.

“Most employers ... cringe at the thought of demanding access to job applicants’ and employees’ private social media accounts, and welcome laws that reduce the risk of negligent hiring suits based on employees’ private social media postings,” wrote David Glockner.

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