New York's New Social Media Law: What Employers Need to Know

The enactment of New York's new social media privacy law, A.386, marks a significant milestone in safeguarding employees' rights in the digital realm. Employers must navigate these regulations with diligence, ensuring a balance between operational needs and respecting employees' privacy. One of the most significant changes is that employers can no longer request the usernames, handles or passwords for individual users when conducting such checks. Other states have offered similar legislation in the past, and it’s one of the reasons that Fama has never required this information from candidates and developed its own proprietary “Profile Confirm” process using three identifiers.

So while Fama’s solutions can help ensure compliance with New York’s new law, we know employers are seeking guidance prior to the law’s enactment in March. Here are insights on the key provisions and implications of this legislation HR and Talent Acquisition leaders need to know.

What Employers Need to Know About New York's New Social Media Law

New York's A.386, goes into effect on March 12 and introduces robust protections for employees' personal online accounts. This labor law empowers employees and job applicants to maintain the privacy of their personal social media accounts, shielding them from employer coercion or intrusion. Below are 3 things employers must pay attention to and prepare for:

#1. Employers Can No Longer Request Credentials

Under the legislation, employers are explicitly barred from requesting, requiring, or coercing employees to disclose their personal social media account information. This includes usernames, passwords, and any content within these accounts. Moreover, employers cannot retaliate against individuals who refuse to comply with these requests.

#2. What Employers Need to Change

Employers must proactively adjust their practices to align with the new legal landscape. This entails revising hiring procedures, updating social media policies, and providing employees with clear notice regarding the law's coverage and exceptions.

#3. Understanding the Exceptions (Social Media Screening is Still Legal)

While the law sets clear boundaries on accessing personal social media accounts, it also includes exceptions that permit certain employer actions. Employers are not restricted from viewing publicly available information or conducting social media screenings compliantly.

How to Continue Conducting Compliant Social Media Screenings

While the new law provides protections for access to employee’s personal information and privacy, publicly available information is still accessible to employees and the compliance for these requirements have not changed. Below are some basic compliance regulations that haven’t changed.

  1. Obtain Consent: Employers must ensure that candidates provide consent for social media screening. This can be achieved by including a clause in the job application or during the interview process, explicitly informing candidates that their public online content may be reviewed as part of the screening process.
  2. Respect Privacy: While employers have the prerogative to screen candidates' public online content, it's essential to respect their privacy and refrain from requesting access to private personal social media accounts or passwords. Screening should be limited to publicly available information.
  3. Relevant to Job Requirements: Employers should focus their social media screening efforts on content that is relevant to job requirements and aligns with the organization's values and culture. Screening should not be used as a means for discriminatory practices or invasion of privacy.
  4. Transparent and Fair: Transparency is paramount throughout the screening process. Employers should communicate clearly with candidates about the purpose of social media screening, the types of information being evaluated, and how it factors into the hiring decision. Furthermore, screening criteria should be applied consistently and fairly to all applicants.

Consider the Importance of a 3rd-Party Online Screening Partner

New York's social media privacy law reshapes the dynamics of workplace privacy and accountability. As organizations adapt to the new landscape of social media privacy regulations, leveraging advanced social media screening solutions like Fama can provide a streamlined, ethical, and compliant approach. Fama offers sophisticated tools for analyzing publicly available social media content while respecting candidates' privacy rights and ensuring fairness in the hiring process.

Fama Compliance = New York State Compliant

One of the cornerstones of Fama’s compliance and compliance with New York’s social media law is our Profile Confirm process and adherence to job relevant information.

  1. Profile Confirm: Fama’s profile confirmation process, known as Profile Confirm, uses basic personal information already in an ATS or background screening portal to create its reports. Fama upholds the industry best practice of confirming three points of data found on a candidate in order to match to their social media profiles. This eliminates the need for asking candidates to provide any social media information. And, by streamlining the screening process and eliminating the need for invasive requests for personal account access, Fama empowers employers to mitigate risk, uphold compliance, and foster a culture of trust and transparency in their hiring practices.
  2. Job Relevant Information: Fama's highly configurable solution ensures its customers to align what they screen for in Fama with their company’s code of conduct. This ensures they only screen and see 'job relevant' information in its reporting, or content that the customer has a 'business purpose' to view. Fama’s customizable flagging criteria, known as Behavior Kits, enables employers to incorporate the brand, culture, security, or business needs of their organization.

The Future of Compliance Among Social Media Laws

As organizations adapt to the evolving landscape of social media privacy regulations, working with a trusted third party screening partner allows talent acquisition teams to focus on hiring great candidates. By partnering with Fama, human resource and talent acquisition teams can navigate the complexities of social media screening with confidence, staying compliant with New York's social media privacy law while making informed hiring decisions.

For more information on the new regulations or Fama’s compliant approach to online screening, request a demo here.