Oregon Employers Won't Be Able to Require Workers to Open Social Media Accounts

The HR & Payroll Resource Center is your integrated, comprehensive source for HR and Payroll information that merges news, analysis, and guidance – including custom answers,...

By Michael Loatman

June 4 — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) June 2 approved a bill (S.B. 185) that will prohibit employers in the state from requiring current or prospective employees to have a personal social media account as a condition of employment.

Oregon appears to be the first state with this type of employer restriction, which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2016. Sen. Brian Boquist (R) was the prime sponsor of the legislation.

The law also will bar employers from requiring that workers allow advertising on their personal social media sites.

The Oregon House passed the bill May 20 following the Senate's passage of the measure on March 4.

Sen. Boquist's wife, Peggy Boquist, testified in February before the Senate Committee on Workforce, saying a sporting goods store declined to interview one of her friends, a Navy veteran, because he wouldn't agree to open a Facebook account. Oregon lawmakers are allowed to sponsor bills at the request of a constituent, and Peggy Boquist was listed as the requester for the bill.

Philip L. Gordon, a shareholder at Littler Mendelson PC in Denver and a member of the advisory board for Bloomberg BNA's Privacy & Security Law Report, told Bloomberg BNA June 4 that he believed the bill was unnecessary. “I work with dozens of employers every year, many of whom are nationwide retailers, on social media issues.”

“I have not had one ask for advice on whether they could force employees to set up a personal social media account so the employer could effectively push advertising to the employee’s social media friends and connections,” he said.

The new law amends Oregon's social media password privacy law, Or. Rev. Stat. § 659A.330, which the state enacted in May 2013. That law limits employer access to the login credentials for the personal social media accounts of employees and job applicants.

Similar password privacy laws have been enacted in 20 other states.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael O. Loatman in Washington at mloatman@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald G. Aplin at daplin@bna.com