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Should Maine prohibit employers from demanding that employees disclose personal email and social medial passwords?

Back in August 2012, we reported on efforts in other states to pass laws that would prohibit employers from demanding that their employees give them access to the employees’ personal email and social media accounts. This debate has now reached Maine and it has received some news coverage.

Rep. Mike McClellan (R-Raymond) has introduced a bill in the Maine legislature that would, among other things, prohibit employers from demanding access to employees’ and applicants’ personal email and social media accounts, such as Facebook accounts. “From my intent, if it’s your own personal Facebook page, you own it and employer doesn’t have the right to that password,” Rep. McClellan said.

The Maine Chamber of Commerce has opposed the bill citing concerns about it hampering workplace investigations, such as sexual harassment investigations. While they may not say so publicly, many employers likely oppose the bill because they want the ability to monitor employees’ private email and social media accounts so that they can see whether employees are disparaging the employer or its management. Many employers also likely oppose the bill because they want the ability to invade employees’ privacy when they take medical leave or collect workers compensation. They want to see whether an employee is “faking” an injury or a health condition in order to get out of work. One’s opinion about this bill likely will depend on whether he or she thinks privacy interests should outweigh employers’ interests to monitor their employees’ personal activity for these types of purposes.