Ohio State Senator Introduces Legislation to Prohibit Employers from Requiring Workers or Applicants to Provide Access to Private Electronic Accounts

On the heels of numerous other states and the United States Senate, on May 24, 2012, Ohio State Senator Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus) introduced legislation that would prohibit employers or prospective employers from asking for or requiring the disclosure of passwords to private electronic accounts or from requesting or requiring access to those accounts. The bill seeks to amend certain provisions of Ohio Revised Code Chapter 4112, the Ohio Civil Rights Act; and, in addition to the penalties already provided for in the statute, imposes a fine for violations of the password disclosure provision ($1,000 for the first offense and $2,000 for each subsequent offense). The bill also provides for a complaint procedure to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission by employees who have been asked or required to disclose passwords.

While the evidence of employers requiring applicants or employees to turn over passwords to sites such as Facebook is largely anecdotal and probably sensationalized, the federal and state governments have sprung into action. Maryland has already passed a law banning employers from requesting social media account passwords, but approximately a dozen more states have similar legislation pending, with Illinois and Delaware close to enacting. On May 9, the Password Protection Act of 2012 was introduced via companion bills in the U.S. House and Senate, which would also bar employers from demanding access to password-protected accounts as a condition of hire or employment.

Whether one feels such legislation is justified or questions if state and federal governments have more important issues to address, the trend of such legislation appears unlikely to abate.

Contact: Karen Adinolfi

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