Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia are poised to join a growing list of states and municipalities that are enacting so-called “Facebook laws,” which prohibit employers from requiring prospective or current employees to disclose their social-media usernames and passwords. In less than two years, social media in the employment context has garnered so much national attention that it sparked the passage of Facebook laws in five states in 2012 and in six states in 2013. Thirty-six other states have proposed similar legislation. To complicate matters, these laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, which creates a tangle of inconsistent protections. For example, Pennsylvania prohibits retaliation against employees when they make “good faith” reports of alleged violations, whereas Philadelphia does not expressly contain this protection. Further, these laws can potentially do more harm than good. For example, the proposed Facebook laws in Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia may interfere with an employer’s legal obligations to conduct thorough workplace investigations.
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