More and more Americans use social media than ever before – both on and off the job. In the past several years, some employers have been demanding that employees connect their personal social media accounts (such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and/or Twitter) with the employer as a condition of employment. Some employers have even mandated that employees and applicants turnover their private usernames and/or passwords. This has raised some privacy concerns for lawmakers across the country. Our Award Winning New York Employment Attorney discusses some pending legislation here in New York that addresses some of those concerns. Keep your eye on our blog to keep abreast and get general information on developments as they happen.
Why would my employer want to access my social media account?
Employers have argued that accessing employees social media accounts is necessary in order to protect trade secrets and proprietary information, to comply with regulations, or simply as a preventative measure in order to keep the employer from being exposed to legal liabilities.
There are risks, of course, to employers making hiring or other employment decisions based on information found on social media; an applicant’s or employee’s account may reveal protected characteristics (such as sexual orientation, political affiliations, etc.) which has potential employment law implications if the information gets utilized incorrectly. (The dangers of using social media accounts in employment decisions will be discussed in greater detail in an upcoming blog.)
Are there any laws that can prevent employers from accessing personal social media accounts?
13 different states, including Maryland, California, and Illinois, have enacted legislation limiting employers access to employees and/or applicants personal social media accounts.
New York State lawmakers have introduced legislation to prevent employers from requesting passwords to personal Internet accounts to get or keep a job. Similar legislation would protect students in public colleges and universities from having to grant access to their social networking accounts.
A.B. 2891 seeks to amend the NY Labor Law by protecting the privacy of employees’ and prospective employees’ social media accounts. The bill would prohibit an employer from requiring that an employee or applicant disclose their log-in name, password, or other means for accessing a personal account or service for personal accounts. The bill would also prohibit employers from terminating, disciplining, or penalizing an employee for refusing to disclose the information. These prohibitions, however, would not be applicable to non-personal accounts.
A.B. 4388 would prohibit an employer or educational institution from requesting or requiring that an employee, applicant or student disclose any user name, password, or other means for accessing a personal account or service through specified electronic communications devices.
S.B. 3927 would protect the privacy of employees’ and prospective employees’ social media accounts.
S.B. 4073 seeks, among other things, to amend the General Business Law; establish the New York State Online Privacy Protection and Internet Safety Act; establish the New York State Online Accounts and Social Media Privacy Act; and establish the requirements for use and destruction of online personal and private information.
While the future of these bills is as-yet not clear, stay turned to this blog for any and all updates on this issue. If you have any concerns or questions with regard to your rights as an employee or an employer’s obligations or potential liabilities with regard to an employee’s private social media accounts, contact our New York Employment Law Attorney for a confidential consultation at (800) 893-9645.
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