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Employers: Don’t Ask for Employee Facebook Passwords

Employers: Don’t Ask for Employee Facebook Passwords @KymeshiaMorris #BWE #legal
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Business owners face a mountain of laws and regulations on their duties to employees. The recent explosion of internet technology has added a layer of complexity and confusion to an already dizzying array of compliance requirements.
Courts and legislatures are wading into, and trying to resolve, many new questions about employees’ social media activities – both on-the-job and outside of work.
Now, in California along with a handful of other states (Illinois, Maryland, and Delaware), at least one issue is clear and settled. Employers are not entitled to access information to workers’ or applicants’ social media accounts.
The California Legislature recently passed, and Governor Jerry Brown Promptly signed, a new law prohibiting employers from requesting or demanding employees’ or prospective workers’ usernames, passwords, and similar information to social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter. (Chap. 618, A.B. 1844, signed 9/27/12).
Curiously, there has been some disagreement about the need for this legislation. Certain commentators have argued there are few instances of this kind of employer behavior. Others disagreed. California legislators and Governor Brown along with officials in three other states saw a need for, and took, urgent action. There is federal legislation pending as well: the Password Protection Act of 2012.
The California approach is fairly standard: generally, employers cannot demand that employees or applicants provide social media usernames or passwords. Also, if employers – in violation of this law – require or ask for this information, they cannot discipline, fire, or otherwise retaliate against current or prospective employees who refuse to comply.
There are two exceptions to the employer rule: first, when there is an investigation of alleged employee misconduct or violation of laws and regulations; and second, when the employer needs to access its own device issued to a worker. There are also instances in litigation when a court can order disclosure of social media access information and content. 
California pioneered the social media revolution. I believe more states should enact laws to protect people from the unwarranted invasions of their social media accounts. As a business owner, I strongly recommend you review any legislation that may impact the use of social media networking within your company. 

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Kymeshia Morris
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About: Kymeshia Morris