New laws protect employees from prying employers

Currently, 17 states have laws regarding what an employer can see on an employee’s social media page by banning employers from asking for their employees’ passwords and login information. Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Louisiana passed employee rights legislation of this nature in 2014. Additionally, Maine lawmakers voted that the restrictions should be studied. More than 20 other states are considering similar legislation.

Michigan, California, New Jersey and Utah have also passed laws that prohibit governmental and private employers from snooping on their employees’ social media accounts. Proponents believe that laws of this nature are necessary to protect privacy rights in light of new technology. One such lawmaker compared having an employee place private letters in his or her locker with people today putting personal correspondence online. For this reason, new legislation is required to protect this correspondence.

Wisconsin’s law also prohibits school and college administrators, teachers and coaches from accessing students’ personal information. Additionally, the law applies to jobs with state and local government. Some states impose fines of $500 to $1,000 if employers violate rules that prohibit them from retaliating against employees who refused to forfeit their passwords to social media accounts. The laws are taking shape as social media continues to grow in popularity and employees bring their smartphones to work with them. Almost 70 percent of people surveyed by Pew Research said that it was important that only they or other authorized individuals had access to their emails, and 11 percent said that they attempted to hide activity from employers or co-workers.

Individuals who are concerned about whether employers have the right to access private information may seek the legal counsel of an employment law attorney. If new legislation is passed that affects employee rights, the attorney can explain how this new law may affect clients.

Source: The Fiscal Times, “Does Your State Protect You from Prying Employers?“, Jeffrey Stinson, July 09, 2014

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