HR News & Trends, Legal Issues

Michigan Becomes Latest State to Protect Employee Online Privacy

Facebookpasswords Social media

By Eric B. Meyer

The newest right-to-work state is also the latest to ban companies from accessing password-protected social media accounts.

In late December, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed House Bill 5523, prohibiting employers and educational institutions from asking applicants, employees and students for passwords and other account information used to access private Internet and email accounts, including social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s the skinny. An employer cannot:

  • Request an employee or an applicant for employment to grant access to, allow observation of, or disclose information that allows access to or observation of the employee’s or applicant’s personal internet account.
  • Discharge, discipline, fail to hire, or otherwise penalize an employee or applicant for employment for failure to grant access to, allow observation of, or disclose information that allows access to or observation of the employee’s or applicant’s personal internet account.

However, the new law specifically permits an employer to access:

  • Employer-provided devices;
  • Business-related online accounts;
  • Employee social-media accounts in connection with certain workplace investigations.

Employers can also continue to restrict access to certain websites and monitor employee communications on its network.

Michigan is the fourth state (Maryland, Illinois and California are the others) to pass a law of this type affecting employers.

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 .