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Legislators in Vermont and Nebraska have introduced bills that would impose limits on employer access to the social media accounts of employees and job applicants.
Vermont Sen. Richard Sears (D) Jan. 11 introduced S. 7, which would regulate employers' abilities to request employee or job applicant social media log-in credentials or to retaliate against employees who refuse to disclose their information. However, under the bill, employers may request log-in information to nonpersonal accounts that are affiliated with the employer's computer or information systems.
If it becomes law, the Vermont bill would take effect July 1.
Nebraska Sen. Tyson Larson introduced Jan. 10 the Workplace Privacy Act, L.B. 58. In addition to regulating employer access to personal social media accounts, the bill would limit employees from downloading their employers' proprietary information or financial data to their personal websites or social networking accounts without prior authorization.
The Workplace Privacy Act includes a private right of action for aggrieved employees or applicants, and it would permit a court to award damages, costs, and attorneys' fees.
Larson's bill makes clear that the law would not impair employer access to company electronic communications devices or corporate accounts. It also said it would not curtail company investigations following claims of employee wrongdoing.
If a bill becomes law in Nebraska without a specified effective date or an emergency clause, then it takes effect three months after the legislative session ends. L.B. 58 currently contains no effective date or emergency clause. The first year of the biennial 2013-2014 Nebraska Legislature is scheduled to adjourn May 30.
On Dec. 28, 2012, Michigan became the most recent state to enact a law restricting employer access to employee or job applicant personal social media accounts, joining California, Illinois, and Maryland (12 PVLR 51, 1/7/13). Michigan's law also regulates the access of higher education institutions to the social media accounts of students and prospective students, a limitation also imposed by laws in California, Delaware, and New Jersey.
The New Jersey Assembly is facing a bill (A. 2878) that it previously passed (11 PVLR 1077, 7/2/12) but that the Senate in October 2012 passed only after adding amendments that would exempt state and local law enforcement agencies, state and county corrections departments, and the state Parole Board from the measure's requirements for employers (11 PVLR 1624, 11/5/12). Consideration of the N.J. workplace password measure was automatically carried over to the second year of the Legislature's 2012-13 biennial legislative session.
Vermont: S. 7, as introduced, is available at http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/2014/bills/Intro/S-007.pdf.
Nebraska: L.B. 58, as introduced, is available at http://nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/Current/PDF/Intro/LB58.pdf.
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