Employers Cannot Ask for Social Media Username or Password

Governor Brown signed AB 1844, creating Labor Code section 980 (effective January 1, 2013), which prohibits employers from requiring or even requesting an employee or applicant for employment to do any of the following:

  1. Disclose a username or password for the purpose of accessing personal social media.
  2. Access personal social media in the presence of the employer.
  3. Divulge any personal social media, except in connection with certain investigations.

I’ve seen a lot of talk around the blogosphere and the interwebs discussing the fact that employers should not be allowed to ask for social media passwords, but I have not heard of a single incident where an employer actually asked for a social media password.  Certainly none of my clients would ask for an employee’s private password.  Both employer and employee groups support this bill, which to me indicates that there isn’t really a problem that needs to be fixed.  Of course, I could be wrong.

My only issue with this bill is that it prohibits an employer from even asking for social media usernames, which could open an employer to liability for innocent inquiries.  I’ve had employers hire marketing directors who claim to have a large social media following, and thus be able to increase the employer’s social media following.  Under this law, the employer could not ask the marketing director for his or her username.  To me, if you have an online profile it is not private, and therefore I don’t see an issue with an employer asking for your username.  If an employer ever asked me for my password, with or without this law, I’d say “No, thank you.”  Of course, that’s just me.

All in all, I suspect this law will have very little, if any, impact on how most employers and employees conduct business.  But hey, at least Governor Brown got to use his Twitter account!

The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
95 South Market Street, Suite 520
San Jose, CA 95113
Tel. 408-293-6341
 
Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
 
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