New Law Limits Virginia Employers’ Access to Social Media Accounts

Employment Law

New Law Limits Virginia Employers’ Access to Social Media Accounts

Apr 27, 2015 | Employment Law

If you have questions related to this article, please contact our Employment Law attorneys: Doug Taylor rdougtaylor@beankinney.com or Maureen Carr mcarr@beankinney.com .

Effective July 1, 2015, employers in Virginia will be prohibited from requesting usernames and passwords for social media accounts of current employees or applicants. Specifically, Va. Code 40.1-28.7:5 will prohibit employers from:

  • Requiring a current or prospective employee to disclose the username and password to his social media account;
  • Requiring a current or prospective employee to add an employee, supervisor, or administrator to his list of contacts;
  • Using any login information inadvertently obtained to access an employee’s social media account;
  • Disciplining an employee for exercising his rights under this section;
  • Refusing to hire an applicant for exercising his rights under this section.

For purposes of the law, the definition of “social media account” is broad and includes any personal account where users can create, share or view: videos, photographs, blogs, podcasts, messages, emails or website profiles or locations. A “social media account” does not include accounts:

  • Opened by the employee at the request of the employer;
  • Provided to an employee by the employer (i.e. email accounts);
  • Set up by an employee on behalf of an employer; or
  • Setup by an employee to impersonate an employer.

The law does not restrict an employers’ ability to view social media account information that is publicly available or to conduct investigations or comply with state or federal law.

The law applies to all government and private employers, regardless of company size or revenue. The law does not create a private cause of action. However, it represents a clear public policy that could form the basis of a claim for wrongful termination.

Employers should review their social media policies and hiring procedures to confirm they are in compliance with this new law.

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