Social Media and Beyond: California Ushers in New Employment Laws for 2013


The California legislature was particularly busy this past session in enacting new laws that directly affect employers in 2013. The new laws address a wide variety of topics, including social media protections for employees; new rights for employees to obtain copies of their personnel file; added requirements regarding itemized wage statements; new protections regarding religious dress and grooming practices; expansion of the definition of “sex” for discrimination purposes to include breastfeeding and related medical conditions; limitations on paying non-exempt employees a fixed salary; provisions relating to written commission agreements; expanded whistleblower coverage and protection relating to government contractors; and workers’ compensation system reform. While the information below provides a general summary of these new laws, employers may desire to consult directly with their employment counsel to determine how these new laws may apply to their particular workplace.

Social Media -

AB 1844 creates Labor Code Section 980, which prohibits employers from requesting or requiring applicants or employees to disclose their usernames and passwords to personal social media. It defines “social media” as “an electronic service or account, or electronic content, including, but not limited to, videos, still photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant and text messages, email, online services or accounts, or Internet Web site profiles or locations.” The new law specifically forbids employers from requesting or requiring applicants or employees to (1) provide their usernames and passwords for the purposes of accessing personal social media, (2) access personal social media in the employer’s presence, or (3) divulge any personal social media. It also prohibits employers from discharging, disciplining, threatening to discharge or discipline, or otherwise retaliating against an applicant or employee who fails to comply with an employer’s request or demand that violates this law. The law permits employers to request usernames and passwords for the purpose of accessing an employer-issued electronic device.

Additionally, the new law does not affect an employer’s existing rights and obligations to request an employee to divulge personal social media reasonably believed to be relevant to an investigation of employee misconduct or violation of law, provided that the social media is used solely for purposes of that investigation or a related proceeding.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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