PRLog (Press Release) - Oct. 18, 2012 - On September 27, 2012, California became the third state to ban employers from obtaining access to employee or applicant social networking sites. “Now, employers cannot request or access employee social media or internet passwords except in limited circumstances as outlined in the new Labor Code section” said April Glatt, an employment law attorney at Chauvel & Descalso, LLP. Assembly Bill 1844 was signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown, prohibiting employers from requiring or requesting an employee or prospective employee to 1) disclose a username or password, 2) access their personal social media accounts in the presence of an employer, or 3) divulge any personal social media.
The underlying rationale to this bill was to protect employee privacy on social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter etc. However, the bill broadly defines social media to include “videos or still photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant and text messages, email, online services or accounts, or Internet Web site profiles or locations.” While seemingly broad, as with any new law, there are exceptions. The first exception allows an employer to request (not require) access to an employee’s personal social media if it is relevant to the investigation of employee misconduct or violation of the law. Second, the bill allows employers to require or request such information for the purpose of accessing an employer-issued electronic device.
For an employer to retaliate or discipline an employee or applicant for not complying with such requests are also illegal. Under this new law, the Labor Commissioner is not required to investigate or determine alleged violations of this new law. Employers beware—effective January 1, 2013, violations of this new law will lead you directly to the Courtroom.
The experienced employment attorneys at Chauvel & Descalso suggested that employers should review their employment practices, employee polices and procedures to ensure they are compliant with this new law.
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