California Law Bans Employers From Requesting Social Media Passwords

By Eric B. Meyer

Last week, California became the third state to pass a law that bans employers from requesting online user names and passwords from employees and job candidates. Maryland was the first state to pass such a law; Illinois was the second.

As in the other two states, not only is it illegal to request online information, but also California employers may not retaliate against anyone who refuses to turn it over.

There are two carve-outs in the California law to protect legitimate employer interests. An employer may:

  • Require an employee to divulge personal social media reasonably believed to be relevant to an investigation of allegations of employee misconduct or employee violation of applicable laws and regulations; or,
  • Require or request an employee to disclose a user name, password, or other method for the purpose of accessing an employer-issued electronic device.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the Senate Labor Committee voted 4-0-1 in favor of a similar bill. Under the proposed New Jersey legislation, the aggrieved party may seek injunctive relief, compensatory damages, counsel fees and court costs. According to Law.com, the one (1) abstention came from a Republican Senator who wishes to amend the bill by removing that private cause of action.

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That legislation now goes to Governor Chris Christie for signature.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

You know that scientist in the action movie who has all the right answers if only the government would just pay attention? Eric B. Meyer, Esq. gets companies HR-compliant before the action sequence. Serving clients nationwide, Eric is a Partner at FisherBroyles, LLP, which is the largest full-service, cloud-based law firm in the world, with approximately 210 attorneys in 21 offices nationwide. Eric is also a volunteer EEOC mediator, a paid private mediator, and publisher of The Employer Handbook (www.TheEmployerHandbook.com), which is pretty much the best employment law blog ever. That, and he's been quoted in the British tabloids. #Bucketlist.

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