Burzichelli, Greenwald, Ramos, Conaway & Caride Bill Barring Employers from Requiring Facebook Login Information Gets Final Legislative Approval

By a vote of 75-2, the full Assembly granted final legislative approval to a bill sponsored by Assemblymen John Burzichelli, Louis Greenwald, Ruben Ramos, Jr., Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D. and Marlene Caride that would bar employers and colleges from requiring current or prospective employees or students to turn over their login information for social networking websites as a condition of employment or acceptance.

“In this job market, especially, employers clearly have the upper hand. Demanding this information is akin to coercion when it might mean the difference between landing a job and not being able to put food on the table for your family,” said Burzichelli (D- Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “This is a huge invasion of privacy that takes ‘Big Brother’ to a whole new level. It’s really no different than asking someone to turn over a key to their house.”

The legislation initially came amidst a rash of reports that private businesses and higher education institutions are demanding Facebook login information from job applicants. The lawmakers also sponsored a companion bill (A-2879) that became law in December, which now bars colleges and universities from doing the same.

Today’s measure (A-2878), would prohibit an employer from requiring a current or prospective employee to provide or disclose any user name, password, or other means for accessing a personal account or service through an electronic communications device. Employers would also be prohibited from asking a current or prospective employee if they have an account or profile on a social networking website.

“This practice is highly invasive and also begs the question of where do you draw the line,” said Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington). “If an employer or college claims they’re trying to gain a perspective on the applicant’s life, what’s to stop them from trying to require the login information for a spouse or parent? With the economy still struggling to gain traction, most people don’t have the luxury of standing up to a prospective employer and denying this type of request.”

Violations of the provisions of the bill would carry civil penalties up to $1,000 for the first violation and $2,500 for each subsequent violation.

“If we don’t draw this line in the sand now, who knows how far this invasion of privacy might be taken,” said Ramos (D-Hudson). “In an economy where employers clearly have the upper hand, we need to protect the rights of job seekers from being trampled.”

“Sometimes there’s a fine line between thoroughly vetting a prospective employee and invading their privacy,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “The rapid advancement of technology creates a slippery slope that these bills aim to temper.”

“Employers have managed to interview and hire quality employees for years without having to resort to this extra layer of scrutiny,” said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic). “There’s no reason they can’t continue to do so without invading a person’s privacy in such a way.”

The bill would also prohibit an employer from requiring a prospective employee or applicant to waive or limit any protection granted under the bill as a condition of applying for or receiving an offer of employment. The bills also prohibit retaliation or discrimination against an individual who might file a complaint or testify as part of an investigation into violations of the law.

The sponsors noted that the rise of social networking sites has made it more commonplace for employers to review publicly available Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts and other such sites, however they questioned the legality of demanding login information from applicants.

The measure now heads to the Governor’s desk.