Illinois has long had laws related to an employee’s right to privacy in the workplace. In the early 1990s, the Illinois General Assembly passed the Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act. This Act was initially designed to prevent employers from requiring employees to share private information. For example, employers were prohibited from seeking information about workers’ compensation claims.
Times have changed. In the 1990s it would have been difficult to predict that by 2016 we would all be carrying around super computers in our pockets, let alone social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
This summer, the Illinois General Assembly amended the Act expanding workers’ right to privacy to try and account for advancements in technology. Illinois became only the second state to make it illegal for employers to demand that employees and/or applicants provide their user names and passwords to social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter. Prior to these amendments, an employer could require his or her employees to provide login and password information as a condition of employment. Effective January 1, 2017, that will no longer be allowed. Should an employer violate the Act, the employee can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor.
Can your employer require you to like or share Facebook posts?
The new law also prevents employers from requiring employees to join certain social media groups. For example, your employer, effective January 1, 2017, will no longer be able to require you to join a Facebook group. Nor will your employer be allowed to force you to invite him or her to a social media group.
The new law does raise some questions, though. What about an employer requiring his or her employees to like company posts on Facebook? As more and more “new” marketing is done via social networking websites, more and more companies are embracing Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as avenues for advertising. The question remains, however, how impactful can the amended law be? For example, even if your employer can no longer require you to like or share posts, how likely are you to refuse to do so? Does one’s privacy trump their desire to be viewed as a dedicated employee?
Every day it seems social media is becoming more and more integrated into our lives. Employees and employers are still adjusting to these new norms. The struggle between privacy and social media will continue, but, hopefully, Illinois’ new law will help employees’ maintain their privacy in a world where it seems we all have too little of it.
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