TRENTON — The Senate Labor Committee advanced bipartisan legislation today to protect the privacy of job seekers. The bill would prohibit an employer from requiring an applicant to provide online passwords or in any other way provide access to their private social networking accounts. It also prohibits an employer from requiring an individual to waive or limit any protection granted under the bill as a condition of applying for or receiving an offer of employment or admission.
“Social networking users have the right and freedom to use their accounts to share private messages with family and friends, express their religions and sexual preferences, and post images and videos with family and friends,” said Republican state Sen. Kevin O’Toole. “By no means should an employer be able to forcibly access such a broad scope of personal information against an applicant’s will. There are plenty of other steps in a job application process for employers to gain a profound understanding of an applicant’s experience, fitness and personality.”
Violators face $1,000 fines for an initial violation and $2,500 for subsequent breaches. This legislation allows applicants to sue for appropriate injunctive relief and damages, including reasonable attorneys’ fees and court costs.
“We are open to consider the business cost concerns that a few organizations and Senators discussed in committee today,” O’Toole said. “We will work with colleagues to establish balanced measure for applicants and employers, while assuring job seekers are not discriminated or retaliated against for exercising their e-privacy rights.”