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Maryland lawmakers discussing Facebook and employment law

Months ago in our Greenbelt Employment Law Blog, we discussed how Facebook use may impact your employment in Maryland. Currently, privacy and employment laws are quite vague when it comes to social media use and we suggested that it may be best to be a bit guarded about what you post on Facebook. However, now Maryland lawmakers are working on bills that would limit the ability of employers to glean information about their employees from Facebook.

Concerns about employers utilizing social media information have surfaced in a variety of arenas in Maryland lately. There have been news reports of university officials looking for information about college athletes on the sites, as well as a former correctional officer who was asked to actually turn over his Facebook login information to a supervisor.

In fact, some universities require college students, usually athletes, to give their social media usernames and passwords to school staff. No colleges in Maryland seem to have such policies, but the NCAA does recommend monitoring the social media sites of athletes.

Several bills have now been drafted in both the House and the Senate in Maryland. One bill would restrict any employers' access to any employees' private information in Maryland; another would apply only to state employees; and a third would apply only to university administrations.

Several area businesses and organizations have come out against the legislation, namely because it fails to exempt employer-supplied hardware or Internet services. Many businesses and groups feel that they do have the right to the information that is entered onto these sites when it goes through their networks and equipment.

What happens with this legislation remains to be seen. Social media is an emerging area of employment law as privacy rights are not yet crystal clear when it comes to digital information. Those who are experiencing any type of employment dispute due to social media are wise to consult an employment law attorney.

Source: WTOP, "Md. lawmakers: Online profiles should be protected from employers," Feb. 27, 2012

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