U.S. Markets closed

Online accounts would be off-limits to employers

Littice Bacon-Blood, Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- Employers and school officials would be banned from demanding access to the personal online accounts of potential employees or students, under a proposal that won approval Monday in the La. House Commerce Committee.

The measure by Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, would prohibit retribution against those who refuse a request for access to their email, Facebook pages and other personal online sites.

However, the bill would require employees to cooperate with a company investigation if evidence suggests they have posted proprietary information that could harm the employer, or if the employer has specific information regarding personal postings that details activities of work-related misconduct or law-breaking.

That cooperation could take the form of requiring the employee to share the personal social media content that is being investigated.

James said his proposal is designed to protect the personal information of employees and students, but does not advocate personal irresponsibility on social media.

"I feel that it's important that we protect individuals when they are requested to give certain information in regards to their usernames and pass words," he said.

The measure would prohibit employers and public schools, including colleges and universities, from requesting information such as usernames, passwords or other authentication information that allows them to access personal online accounts. Private schools were amended out of the bill.

Following his testimony, James told reporters that demand for access to private accounts is not a problem that he's seen in Louisiana, but said it was important to have such a law on the books.

Employers and school officials could still scour the Internet in the hopes of gaining insight into the personality of potential employees or students.

"This bill doesn't say that employers can't monitor," social media behavior that's public, James said. "This bill says you can't ask me for my username and passwords to be able to see what I'm sending out on social media or email."

In addition, the bill would not prohibit employers or schools from requesting access information to company-owned devices that are issued to employees.

The measure now heads to the House floor for further debate.