New Laws Protect Workers’ and Students’ Social Networking Info
It seems the law is beginning to catch up to the ever evolving world of social networking. Employers have been able to screen job applicants and monitor employees like never before by Googling them and trolling their social networks. Today, California became the third state (behind Maryland and Illinois) to enact laws extending privacy protections to social media.
Assembly Bill 1844 by Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D-San Jose) was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. The new law prohibits employers from requiring OR requesting user names OR passwords from employees or job applicants for the purpose of accessing social networking sites. However, employers may still request this information if they reasonably believe it is relevant to an investigation of employee misconduct, provided the information is used solely for that purpose. There is also an exception for employer-issued electronic devices. An employer shall not discharge, discipline, threaten to discharge or discipline, or otherwise retaliate against an employee or applicant for not complying with a request or demand by the employer that violates this section. Finally, this law does not require the Labor Commissioner to investigate or determine any violation of this law. Although, presumably an employee may file suit in civil court or a complaint with the Labor Commissioner to enforce his or her rights under this law.
A similar law, SB 1349 by Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), was also signed today that establishes restrictions on public and private universities and colleges. While the law prohibits these institutions from collecting usernames and passwords from applicants, students, and student groups, it does not limit a school’s right or obligation to investigate or punish student misconduct.
Employers should take this opportunity to review their Human Resource policies to ensure compliance with these new laws.