Illinois recently passed two new laws that will make employers that unlawfully monitor their employees' electronic communications subject to civil remedies and allow employers to access employees' social media accounts that are used for business purposes.
The first, 2013 Bill Text H.B. 3038, amends 720 ILCS 5/14-6 effective January 1, 2014, to allow employees whose electronic communications are unlawfully monitored to sue for civil remedies, including:
An injunction by the circuit court prohibiting further eavesdropping;
Actual damages; and
Any punitive damages that may be awarded by the court or by a jury.
The second, 2013 Bill Text IL S.B. 2306, amends the Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act (Act) to mirror the social media privacy protection laws of other states. Effective January 1, 2014, the amended law clarifies that the Act applies only to personal accounts used exclusively for personal communications that are not related to the employer's business purposes. The law will not apply to professional accounts or services provided by the employer or that are used for business and work-related purposes.
The amended law also states that where the employer seeks a password, account information or access related to a professional account, an employer is not restricted from complying with its duty to screen employees and applicants prior to hiring or to monitor or retain employee communications as required under Illinois insurance, federal law or by a self-regulatory organization as defined by the Securities Exchange Act (such as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)).
In light of these changes, employers should review and amend their policies and procedures and train all supervisors on the new laws.