California Legislation Aims to Protect Personal Social Media Account Access by Employers

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In effort to protect employees and prospective employees, the California Legislature is taking steps to prevent an employer’s ability to gain access to their employees’ or prospective employees’ social media accounts.

On May 2, 2012, the California Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment unanimously approved Assembly Bill 1844 a bill which will prohibit an employer from requiring an employee or prospective employee to disclose user names and passwords to personal social media accounts. AB 1844 is a direct result of national stories and statements by Facebook that employers have been asking for such information more frequently to monitor employees’ activities or to screen prospective employees.

AB 1844 is expected to sail through the Legislature with little opposition, though the Governor has not indicated his position on the bill. At least eight other states are currently considering similar legislation.

Related legislation has also been introduced – Senate Bill 1349 – The Social Media Privacy Act. SB 1349 would prohibit a postsecondary educational institution and employer, whether public or private, from requiring, or formally requesting in writing, a student or an employee, or a prospective student or employee, to disclose the user name and account password for a personal social media account.  

While SB 1349 currently would allow postsecondary educational institutions and employers to request access to a personal social media account to aid in a formal investigation conducted by the institution or employer regarding specific allegations of harassment, discrimination, intimidation, or potential violence, the bill would prohibit the post secondary institution and employer from discharging, disciplining, threatening to discharge or discipline, or otherwise in any way penalizing a student or employee for refusing to disclose the requested information related to their personal social media account. SB 1349 is making its way through the Senate.

For more information or any questions, please contact Tim Moroney 415-743-3713 or tmoroney@bargerwolen.com.