Oregon Gets New Social Media Law; A Federal Law May be Next

By Eric M. Meyer

Last week, before the Memorial Day weekend, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber signed into law a bill which prohibits employers from requiring or requesting that employees or applicants for employment:

  • Provide access to personal social media accounts;
  • Add employers to social media contact lists; or,
  • Allow employers to view an employee’s or applicant’s personal social media account.

Password Protection Act introduced

Meanwhile, a few days before Oregon became the 10th state to enact a social media workplace privacy law, Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colorado, introduced the Password Protection Act of 2013 in the U.S. House of Representatives. According to his press release, Rep. Perlmutter is concerned that “employers essentially can act as imposters and assume the identity of an employee and continually access, monitor and even manipulate an employee’s personal social activities and opinions.”

[Author’s note: Take a wild guess how many employers have contacted me to request my legal opinion on whether they “essentially can act as imposters and assume the identity of an employee and continually access, monitor and even manipulate an employee’s personal social activities and opinions?”]

The bill itself would actually address more than the concerns Rep. Perlmutter raised. It would amend the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and make it unlawful for employers to require that employees authorize access to a computer that the employer does not own or operate. Further, the law provides no carve-out for employers to obtain password-protected social media content that reasonably relates to a workplace investigation into claims of alleged harassment.

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Both the House and Senate previously introduced the Password Protection Act of 2012. (More on the Senate bill here). Each bill died. And I don’t foresee the 2013 version gaining much more traction.

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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2 Comments on “Oregon Gets New Social Media Law; A Federal Law May be Next

  1. Does Linked In count as a social media account? I can see this one as being tricky as it is career related, but it’s still a social media site belonging to the employee…

    1. This just seems to be about an employer REQUIRING a candidate to allow access to a personal social profile rather than actually just VIEWING their personal social profile, or am I missing something?

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