How a new law protects New York employees’ privacy

On Behalf of | Nov 2, 2023 | Employee Rights |

Some people post just about everything on one or more social media platforms. Most of us would like to be able to be our real selves on social media – from sharing political opinions to photos of our new significant other. However, people generally don’t want their employers (or prospective employers) snooping around. That’s part of what privacy settings are for. We can choose the people we feel comfortable sharing these thoughts and images with. 

Since many people still don’t use privacy settings, employers and recruiters can and do look at people’s social media presence.  According to CareerBuilder, some 70% of employers look at applicants’ social media accounts. It’s also been estimated that about a third of recruiters ask for access to these accounts. While no one is required to provide it, most people don’t feel they can say no.

Certainly, social media accounts can provide a wealth of information that they wouldn’t ask (or wouldn’t be allowed to ask) someone in an interview or application. Maybe someone has a disability or medical condition that isn’t readily apparent. Perhaps they’re married to someone of the same gender. Maybe they used to be another gender. They may have just converted to a different religion. These are just a few examples.

What is in the law?

Until recently, New York was among approximately half the states where employers could ask their employees and applicants to allow them to access their social media accounts. However, Gov. Kathy Hochul recently signed legislation into law that prohibits employers from asking or requiring access to private social media accounts. Doing so, as the law states, can lead to discriminatory employment practices.

A Queens state representative who co-authored the legislation says, “There have to be limits to what your employer can demand from you. Your personal life and your personal social media are your business, not your boss’s.”

It’s always wise to be careful about what you post on social media. It’s also important to take advantage of the privacy settings so that you have some control over who can see or respond to posts. However, it’s also crucial to know your rights under the law and to speak up if you believe they’ve been violated or you’ve faced discrimination based on information an employer shouldn’t have had. If you have questions or concerns, it can be helpful to get legal guidance.

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