New law on what employers can monitor on social media

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) If you have a social media account and a job -- this story affects you. A new law will soon change what an employer can see of your activity on those sites.

If you use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any of the myriad other social media sites, you might be surprised to find out that right now nothing stops your employer from demanding access to your accounts.

"I don't think employers need to have access to your personal Instagram account or Snapchat account. That seems a little much," said Julia Luckett Cox of Winooski.

"I wouldn't have an issue with it personally, if they were wanting to refer to looking at the parts of it that were publicly viewable," said Craig Rigby of Cambridge.

But that's changing starting January 1 when a new law takes effect. It bans employers from asking for your social media passwords. They won't be able to review private accounts at all. Champlain College Professor Elaine Young has been studying social media use for years. She says employers looking at accounts happens. "There have been stories of people saying show me your Facebook before I will hire you," Young said.

But that won't be allowed under Act 37. Its goal is to make sure employees have the opportunity to keep their social media -- and their work -- separate. "They're not necessarily meant for the professional self, they're more about the well-rounded person, and employers in the past have sometimes made hiring decisions based on content in someone's social media account," Young said.

Jenna Schwerdtle is a senior at Champlain College. She's about to enter the job market. She expects future employers to review the public parts of her accounts. "If it was a job I really wanted I would be OK with it, just because I am kind of careful about what I do put out on social media, because I am aware that is something that could happen," Schwerdtle said.

But she says the line between personal and professional lives should be respected. "If you can't keep your personal life personal in the work force, I think everything starts to overlap and it's kind of like an unhealthy balance," she said.

There are some exceptions. Employers can still ask to see accounts that are affiliated with the business, or if the employee's social media account is linked to harassment or legal issues. And if your job requires special security clearances you can expect more scrutiny.