New Jersey ain’t foolin’ around

social media background checksAs of April 1, the Garden State became the fifth state to officially ban employers from being able to ask potential job applicants and current employees for their user names, screen names, passwords, etc., to gain access to their personal social media sites.

Some employers – both private and public – believe social media sites offer a more truthful representation of an applicant than a resume may provide, or even an in-person interview. And used properly, social media sites can be extremely helpful to employers, screening agencies and even private citizens who, let’s say, may be looking to sell their house.

Some employers argue the practice is needed with current employees, too, to safeguard their business or organization from workers that might be sharing trade secrets or other potentially crippling information online. Opponents of this practice largely argue it’s a violation of privacy, though.

And it appears the majority of states agree with them. While the practice of asking for an employee’s Facebook or Twitter sign-in information does not seem to be widespread, it was considered legal for employers to do, and it’s been enough of a concern that bills banning the practice continue to gain momentum in state houses across the country.

“Employer social media access” bills are currently being debated in 32 states, but New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was ahead of the curve, signing his state house’s bill into law in December (it didn’t go into effect, however, until April Fools’ Day) following the likes of Maryland, California, Illinois and Michigan.

Ohio, which was one of 14 states to defeat a similar-sounding bill last year, might be closer to making good on one this year. The National Conference of State Legislatures has a webpage with the status of each of these bills.

One final word to the wise, employers can still legally view any post by their employees that they make public on their preferred social media site.

So remember: think before you tweet.

And that’s no joke.