Does your employer or college have the right to ask for your social media user names and passwords including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, Pinterest, and Tumblr?
In California the question has been answered. And, the answer is definitively no*, employers are prohibited from asking existing employees or applicants for user names or passwords of social media accounts under California’s Labor Code.
On January 1, 2013, California passed the Social Media Privacy Act. “This bill would prohibit an employer from requiring or requesting an employee or applicant for employment to disclose a username or password for the purpose of accessing personal social media, to access personal social media in the presence of the employer, or to divulge any personal social media. This bill would also prohibit an employer from discharging, disciplining, threatening to discharge or discipline, or otherwise retaliating against an employee or applicant for not complying with a request or demand by the employer that violates these provisions.”
How is social media defined? Per California Law, “social media” means an electronic service or account, or electronic content, including, but not limited to, videos, still photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant and text messages, email, online services or accounts, or Internet Web site profiles or locations.
This is an important ruling especially for sales and marketing people who use sites such as LinkedIn for lead generation and relationship development.
Employers who violate the act could face liability in private civil actions for harassment or discrimination. Of course the burden of proof is on the shoulders of the employee, applicant, or college student.
California once again leads the way in social civil rights policy but the fight isn’t over. The Password Protection Act (PPA) and the Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA) have been introduced in Congress but are currently stalled.
*This blog is not a replacement for specific legal advice. Carol Smith is not an attorney, and legal advice should be sought out for your specific situation. For more information read http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201120120AB1844