It is not difficult to figure out the public sentiment on the issue of employers forcing job applicants or employees to provide their social media passwords or credentials. Washington has just become the 11th state with a law banning employers from such conduct. The other 10 states that have similar laws governing social media privacy in the workplace are Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah.
The Washington law goes so far as to prohibit employers from forcing employees to open their social media accounts while the employer looks over their shoulder. The law does, however, have an exception which allows employers to obtain information from an employee’s social media account if the employer is conducting an investigation into the employee’s misconduct, or if the employee is accused of improperly transferring proprietary information. Even then the employer can only ask the employee to provide their log in information, they cannot require the employee to do so.
An employer that violates this law can be sued by the employee, who can recover up to $500 in statutory damages, as well as seeking actual damages, injunctive relief and attorney fees and costs.
Georgia does not yet have a similar law, although employers generally have not shown a proclivity for requiring employees to provide their social media passwords. Although I have not seen the following situation arise, a problem with such laws can be that they impede the ability of an employer to investigate allegations that an employee used social media to harass, discriminate or engage in other misconduct, toward another employee. This concern notwithstanding, we can expect other states to continue the trend of passing these laws.