Recently, Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed a so-called "Facebook" bill because he felt a provision that barred employers from asking a current or prospective employee if they have a personal account or profile on a social networking website could lead to frivolous lawsuits.


The full legislature has eliminated the clause, passed the bill and sent it back to Christie.

"When people set these (social network accounts) up as a personal matter they have an expectation of privacy and this ensures that expectation will be met," says bill co-sponsor, Sen. Jim Whelan. "Their employer, their boss can't go to their Facebook account unannounced and, you know, rifle through it. With social media sites it's a new world and the law has to try to stay current as much as we can."

The re-tooled bill that has been re-approved will prohibit an employer from requiring a current or prospective employee to provide or disclose any user name, password, or other means for accessing a personal account or service through an electronic communications device.

The measure was amended to strike the clause prohibiting employers from asking a current or prospective employee if they have a personal account or profile on a social networking website.

"Fundamental liberties dictate that employers should not have the right to judge a job candidate based on photo albums, political affiliations, religious beliefs, sexual preference and private messages with family and friends," says Sen. Kevin O'Toole, another sponsor. "People should not have to walk away from jobs because their privacy is being unjustly threatened, nor should they be put in a position of having to provide an employer with private, personal information."

The bill was originally introduced amidst a rash of reports that private businesses were demanding Facebook login information from applicants. A companion bill that became law in December, bars colleges and universities from doing the same.

"In this job market, especially, employers clearly have the upper hand. Demanding this information is akin to coercion when it might mean the difference between landing a job and not being able to put food on the table for your family," says John Burzichelli, the Assembly co-sponsor of both measures. "This is a huge invasion of privacy that takes 'Big Brother' to a whole new level. It's really no different than asking someone to turn over a key to their house. I think the changes we approved today are sensible while maintaining the original intent of the bill."

Violations of the provisions of the bill would carry civil penalties up to $1,000 for the first offense and $2,500 for each subsequent violation.