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NJ ‘Facebook law’ approved, headed to Gov. Christie’s desk

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: New Jersey’s new “Facebook law” is headed to Gov. Christie’s desk. If he signs it, the measure would prevent employers and colleges from requiring current or prospective employees or students to turn over their login information for social networking websites as a condition of employment or acceptance.

The state Assembly voted in favor of the measure, 75-2, following approval by the Senate.

“Demanding this information is akin to coercion when it might mean the difference between landing a job and not being able to put food on the table for your family,” said John Burzichelli (D- Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem), one of the Assembly’s co-sponsors.

“It’s really no different than asking someone to turn over a key to their house,” he said.

The legislation follows reports of private businesses and higher education institutions demanding Facebook login information from job applicants. The lawmakers also sponsored a companion bill that became law in December barring bars colleges and universities from doing the same.

Nothing in the proposed law prevents employers from doing their own online research to see what a prospective or current employee might be up to online, if that person’s account isn’t password-protected.

The measure approved today would prohibit an employer from requiring a current or prospective employee to provide or disclose any user name, password, or other means for accessing a personal account or service through an electronic communications device.

Employers would also be prohibited from asking a current or prospective employee if they have an account or profile on a social networking website — a provision that some critics have said goes too far.

Violations of the provisions of the bill would carry civil penalties up to $1,000 for the first violation and $2,500 for each subsequent violation.

“Employers have managed to interview and hire quality employees for years without having to resort to this extra layer of scrutiny,” said Assemblywoman Marlene Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic).  “There’s no reason they can’t continue to do so without invading a person’s privacy in such a way.”

The bill would also prohibit an employer from requiring a prospective employee or applicant to waive or limit any protection granted under the bill as a condition of applying for or receiving an offer of employment.

And it prohibits retaliation or discrimination against an individual who might file a complaint or testify as part of an investigation into violations of the law.

It’s not the first law of its kind — but it would be the broadest.

A 2009 federal court decision referenced and reinforced federal and New Jersey laws that prohibit employers from pressuring workers for access to their social media accounts.

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