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Illinois Workers Get New Workplace Privacy Protections In 2017

On Behalf of | Jan 28, 2017 | Firm News

In what is already shaping up to be a big year for Illinois workers rights, 2017 will bring expanded workplace privacy protections to keep employers from accessing sensitive information about their workers. On January 1, 2017, the Illinois Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act (IRPWA) goes into effect to affirm these new protections and make personal online accounts off limits from companies.

The IRPWA will make it illegal for employers to:

  • Ask for an employee or applicant’s username or password to personal online accounts
  • Require the employee or applicant to access a personal online account in the presence of the employer
  • Ask the employee or applicant to grant access to social media accounts by joining groups or accepting friend requests by the employer
  • Retaliate or otherwise discipline workers for refusing to comply with granting access to their employers
  • Passing individuals over for employment for not granting access to personal online accounts

Employers who violate the IRPWA are subject to increased liability under the upcoming changes to the law. Specifically, employees can sue their company or prospective employer for emotional distress if they were retaliated against for refusing to comply with demands for personal online accounts.

IRPWA clarifies rules, gives employers guidance on compliance with employee privacy

While previous incarnations of the law gave employees limited protections against employers accessing social media accounts like Facebook, the law now defines personal online accounts as any online account primarily used for personal purposes. Furthermore, the new retaliation clauses give the IRPWA the teeth needed to ensure compliance and afford disenfranchised employees the ability to recover compensation.

The IRPWA does, however, give employees the ability to request access to personal online accounts to comply with state and federal laws and even look into allegations of employee misconduct. Additionally, companies are within their rights to create and establish policies to prevent employees from using social media on their workplace computers or otherwise use social media while on company property.

Chicago employment lawyers

If you have questions about changes to the Illinois Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act, contact our office to speak to one of our experienced Chicago employment lawyers. Whether you are a business owner with questions about compliance or an employee that may have been the victim of retaliation under the law, our employment attorneys can help you make sense of your case.