Employers in Nebraska should take note that the Nebraska Legislature has recently introduced a bill that would prohibit employers from demanding access to applicants' and employees' social media accounts. Similar bills were passed last year in California, Illinois, Michigan and Maryland. A number of state legislatures are also considering similar measures. The proposed Nebraska law, the Workplace Privacy Act (Act), specifically states that an employer may not:
Require or request that an employee or applicant provide or disclose any user name and password or other related account information in order to gain access to the individual's social networking site profile or account by way of an electronic device;
Require or request that an employee or applicant log onto a social networking site in the presence of the employer or the employer's agent so as to provide access to the individual's social networking profile or account; or
Access an employee's or applicant's social networking site profile or account indirectly through a social networking contact of that individual.
The Act also prohibits an employer from retaliating or discriminating against an employee or applicant because the individual refused to provide such access, filed a complaint under the Act or participated in a proceeding under the Act. +2013 Bill Tracking NE L.B. 58; +2013 Bill Text NE L.B. 58.
The proposed law does carve out some exceptions and provides that an employer is not prohibited from requesting or requiring an individual's social networking information so that an employer may:
Gain access to an electronic communications device paid for in whole or in part by the employer;
Gain access to an account or service provided by the employer or obtained in connection with the employer's business;
Gain access to information that is in the public domain; or
Conduct an investigation regarding employee wrongdoing or unauthorized downloading of the employer's proprietary information or financial data.
The proposed law also prohibits employees from downloading an employer's proprietary information or financial data to a personal website or social networking website without employer authorization and further protects the right of employers to maintain lawful workplace polices regarding internet, social networking site and email use. Aggrieved persons are permitted to bring a civil action for a violation of the Act. Prevailing employees and applicants may be awarded actual damages and attorneys' fees.
Should the Workplace Privacy Act become law, Nebraska employers will be compelled to review and revise their workplace policies regarding electronic communications, social media and hiring practices.
Employee Management > Employee Privacy: Nebraska > Future Developments
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