Dinowitz passes new protections for job seekers, urges Senate to do the same

AM Dinowitz passes new protections for job seekers and urges Senate to do the same.
Courtesy of Office of AM Dinowitz

A pair of longstanding bills from Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz to protect job seekers has passed the State Assembly again, but they face an uncertain future in the State Senate.

The first bill, A2479, would prohibit an employer from requesting access to social media accounts of prospective employees as a condition of hiring, continuing employment or disciplinary proceedings. The legislation was first introduced in 2012 in response to a growing trend among employers amidst the rise in social media prevalence among prospective and current employees.

This is the third time the bill has passed in the Assembly, but it has died in the Senate every year, despite a change in majority control of the chamber.

“As more and more of society is taking place in the digital realm, it is imperative that we modernize our laws to keep pace with new privacy expectations,” Dinowitz said. “If a person designates their social media as private, then their information should be private. Otherwise, we are forcing workers to make a difficult decision in a horrible job market to choose between maintaining their digital privacy or losing a job opportunity or promotion opportunity. I urge the State Senate to join the Assembly in protecting the privacy of workers in our digital age.”

In recent years, there have been reports of employers demanding login information — including username and password information as well as email accounts and other personal accounts — as a condition of hiring, promotions, lateral movement within companies and disciplinary action. This type of request can lead to issues of unfair and discriminatory hiring and personnel decisions and can put employees or prospective employees in a difficult position during a challenging job market.

The legislation would not restrict employers from accessing publicly available content on social media accounts and would exempt certain requests for access such as those from law enforcement entities or accounts that are business related.

The second bill, A2611, would prohibit the use of consumer credit history in hiring, employment and licensing determinations. The legislation was first introduced in 2013 as New York was exiting the Great Recession and many had suffered diminished credit histories. This is the second time the bill has passed in the Assembly and it has never been voted on by the full Senate.

There is little to no evidence that shows a correlation between credit history and job performance, however it is common practice for large employers to use credit checks as part of their hiring process and in personnel decisions.

Compounding the widespread use of credit history in personnel decisions is a study from the Federal Trade Commission that indicates that one in four consumers have identified a “material error” in their credit reports and that only 20 percent of those consumers had a modification to at least one of their three credit reports after the dispute process. This legislation would not restrict access to credit history in certain cases, including for employees who are covered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority or conflicts of interest disclosure requirements as well as pursuant to a lawful subpoena.

“Credit histories are notoriously problematic, with many consumers having errors on their reports that they do not even know exist,” the assemblyman said. “Furthermore, there are many reasons why some people have accumulated debt or poor credit, whether it was a medical expense that they couldn’t afford or a downturn in the economy that saddled them with a mortgage they could no longer afford. These disparities in credit history disproportionately affect certain demographic groups, and it is abhorrent to perpetuate a system that enables discrimination against people trying to get their lives together. I urge the Senate to join the Assembly in reducing barriers to employment and pass this legislation.”

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