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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.

Virginia appears poised to join Maryland and a handful of other states that ban employers from asking current employees and applicants for access to their social media accounts, like Facebook. Earlier this month, the Virginia legislature passed a bill that precludes an employer from requesting or compelling an employee to: 1) divulge passwords or usernames for the employee’s social media accounts; or 2) add the employer to the contacts associated with the employee’s social media accounts. The restrictions also apply to applicants for employment. It is still permissible under the law for an employer to seek access information to an employee’s social media accounts, but only if the information is reasonably needed to investigate allegations of unlawful employee activity or necessary to comply with other laws. Unless vetoed, the law will become effective by the end of March 2015, or sooner.

socialmedia.jpgSeveral of my prior posts have discussed revising a company’s social media policy to create limits as to what employees may post online about the company and/or other employees.  In this newly emerging area of law, early cases supported employer policies that prevented employees from posting derogatory or defamatory statements about an employer on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and personal blogs.

As more cases are heard on the issue of what protections are afforded to social media speech, there appears to be a shift in rulings on cases involving companies’ social media policies.

February 12, 2013
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Do you have a Twitter account for your business that your employees access? Do any of your employees tweet using a Twitter handle that includes your company’s name? If so, you need to update your social media policy in order to protect your company.

PhoneDog Media (“PhoneDog”), a South Carolina based company, had an employee, Noah Kravitz, who left the company in 2010 but continued to use his Twitter name “Phonedog_Noah.” The Twitter account was linked to Kravitz’s personal email account and had 17,000 followers.

PhoneDog sued Kravitz for the loss of Twitter followers. PhoneDog told the New York Times that “The costs and resources invested by PhoneDog Media into growing its followers, fans and general brand awareness through social media are substantial and are considered property of PhoneDog Media L.L.C.” The company also stated that PhoneDog plans to fight to protect their customer lists, confidential information and brand.

 

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As a follow up to my most recent post about the media coverage of the emerging trend of employers asking or requiring job applicants and/or current employees to provide their Facebook or other social media passwords, Maryland just passed legislation on Wednesday that bans employers from asking applicants and employees for their personal online passwords.

Maryland is the first state to enact legislation on this issue.  But other states are considering similar legislation, including California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, South Carolina and Washington. Even Congress is considering a federal law that would protect applicants' and employees' privacy in their personal online passwords.  Virginia and DC have not yet addressed the issue.

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A new trend that has emerged in the employment arena is employers asking applicants to provide their Facebook username and password or other social media login information during the interview process.  Other employers are making compliance with this new policy a condition of employment.

Many Facebook users have increased the security settings on their accounts so that very little, iif any, of their profile is visible to the public.  In response, some employers seek social media login information in order to log in to applicants’ Facebook accounts in order to look at the applicant’s profile and other information that cannot be viewed by the general public.