The State of Maryland had a busy month of May on the forefront of labor and employment law. On May 2, Maryland became the second state to officially recognize a labor relations privilege when Governor Martin O’Malley signed Senate Bill 797 into law. On that same day, Maryland became the first state to prohibit employers from requesting or requiring job applicants and employees to disclose electronic passwords or usernames to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. This law also barred employers from taking certain disciplinary actions against employees who refuse to disclose such information.

The username and password privacy protection law passed the Maryland Senate (SB 433) and the Maryland House of Delegates (HB 964) in April with widespread support. The law was applauded by companies such as Facebook, but opposed by the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. The law is scheduled to take effect October 1, 2012.

It is no surprise that Maryland took the national lead protecting online social networking accounts from the reach of employers. Indeed, much of the media attention surrounding this issue stemmed from the case of Robert Collins, an employee of Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Mr. Collins was forced to hand over his Facebook log-in information while seeking recertification to return to his job after a leave of absence. In the midst of all the negative publicity that followed, the Department decided to suspend this practice.

Other states, including California, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota, are looking to follow Maryland’s lead on this important issue. In addition, similar federal bills were introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives in early May.