Tuesday, September 24, 2013

As employers, including universities, scrutinize employee social media accounts...


... a growing number of jurisdictions are passing privacy laws to protect people from such intrusions.

New Jersey Enacts a Social Media Privacy Law
         The Garden State joined a growing list of jurisdictions intent on regulating employers’ monitoring of their workers’ social media activities.  Signed by Governor Chris Christie in mid-September, and taking effect on December 1st, the law’s main points are:
  • Employers may require their employees to disclose passwords that apply to accounts maintained for business purposes.
  • Employers may also insist on getting passwords for specified categories of internal investigations.
  • But employers cannot require prospective or current employees to disclose online user names and passwords outside these exceptions.
  • Employee complaints will be directed to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.  Violators can be fined from $1000 to $2500.
[Gary S. Young, “Governor Christie Signs NJ Media Protections into Law,” Scarinci Hollenbeck Attorneys at Law, September 11, 2013, accessed at http://www.businesslawnews.com/governor-christie-signs-nj-social-media-protections-into-law/]
       Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton has commented on the new statute, “Although the statutory remedies are limited, it remains to be seen whether the New Jersey courts will recognize a common-law cause of action with much broader remedies for employees who are fired for refusing to provide access to personal social media accounts. New Jersey, like many other states, recognizes a common-law cause of action for wrongful termination in violation of “a clear mandate of public policy” and provides broad remedies for employees terminated in violation of a public policy expressed in a statute or regulation. Employees fired for refusing to provide access to their personal accounts in violation of this statute may well argue that the termination violates a clear mandate of public policy.” [DelDuca & Barrueco, “New jersey’s New Social Media Privacy Law: Balancing Employee Rights and Employer Protections,” Pepper Hamilton LLP, September 6, 2013, accessed at http://www.pepperlaw.com/publications_update.aspx?ArticleKey=2743]
         The 11 other states with similar laws are:
1.     Arkansas
2.     California
3.     Colorado
4.     Illinois
5.     Maryland
6.     Michigan
7.     New Mexico
8.     Oregon
9.     Utah
10.  Nevada
11.  Washington

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