HR News & Trends, Legal Issues

California Law Bans Employers From Requesting Social Media Passwords

social media privacy

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.

That legislation now goes to Governor Chris Christie for signature.

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

Eric B. Meyer is a partner in the Labor and Employment Group of the Philadelphia-based law firm of Dilworth Paxson LLP . He dedicates his practice to litigating and assisting employers on labor and employment issues affecting the workplace, including collective bargaining, discrimination, employee handbook policies, enforcement of restrictive covenants, and trade secret protection. Eric also serves as a volunteer mediator for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Contact him at emeyer@dilworthlaw.com .