Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a bill that will prevent employers from obtaining passwords for social media accounts and e-mail accounts. The law will become effective January 1, 2013.
California Assembly Bill 1844 prohibits employers from demanding user names and passwords from employees and job applicants. There are a few exceptions: Employers can ask an employee to divulge social media if there is reason to believe that it is relevant to an investigation; employers may access the username and password information if they need to access an employer-issued electronic device; and employers may still terminate employees or take other adverse action if such action is permitted by law.
While this law does protect employees’ privacy, employers are concerned because it may inhibit their ability to regulate or identify workplace harassment. The law also does not address work-related social media accounts, such as a company blog or Facebook account that is maintained at an employee’s home.
The law is also unusual in that there are no set remedies. The law specifically states that the Labor Commissioner is not required to investigate an alleged violation of the act. Thus, it may be difficult for employees to recover any damages for a violation.
Because the law is not yet in effect, minor changes may occur before 2013. We will certainly alert you if that occurs.
Employment laws are always evolving. Please contact De Castro & Morrow so we can help you evaluate your social media policy and any other employment related matters. Let’s be proactive together.
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