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Kan. bill would limit employer social media access

Published on -1/30/2013, 11:28 AM

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Two Kansas lawmakers are seeking support for a measure that would limit employers' access to job applicants' social media accounts.

Rep. Gail Finney and Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, both Democrats, back measures that aim to protect job seekers from employers who want access to user names and passwords to look through their social media accounts like Facebook or Twitter, The Kansas City Star reported Wednesday (http://bit.ly/14rCDk8 ).

"What you do over Facebook doesn't have anything to do with the duties of the job you're applying for," said Faust-Goudeau, who represents part of Wichita. "If people are out seeking gainful employment we shouldn't have other barriers keeping them from work."

Finney is also pushing a bill that would ban colleges and universities from asking for the same information from students and potential students. She said she understands why employers might research applicants using Facebook, but she doesn't think that justifies allowing them to scrutinize applicants' personal accounts.

Facebook has called on employers not to ask applicants for their Facebook passwords.

"You shouldn't be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job," Erin Egan, the company's chief privacy officer, wrote in a March 2012 blog post. "It is important that everyone on Facebook understands they have a right to keep a password to themselves."

Kansas City labor legal experts believe such snooping is rare.

"In many ways, I think this bill is overkill," said David Kight, an attorney who specializes in social media law. "In my experience, most employers aren't out there looking for this stuff."

There is also concern about an aspect of the measure that would allow employers to ask an employee to disclose digitally stored content, including email, if it's part of a misconduct investigation.

"That exception seems pretty large to me," said Tedrick Housh, a social media law specialist in Kansas City.

Republican Rep. Tom Sloan, of Lawrence, also said that while comments posted on Facebook for family and friends should not be taken into account by an employer, it might be different if someone is menacing colleagues on social media.

In the House, the bill will go to the commerce committee, which is led by Rep. Marvin Kleeb, an Overland Park Republican who runs a staffing service. Kleeb said he doesn't believe many employers use Facebook to search applicants' backgrounds.

"We've never done it," he said. "Never saw any use in it."

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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