Social Network(s) Logon

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    Henry Brown

    IMO one of the best bills at balancing the privacy rights of the individual employee and the rights and responsibilities of the employer…

    From Trading Secrets Blog:

    On May 21, 2013, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed into law Senate Bill 5211, which with certain exceptions prohibits mandatory employee disclosure of ‘personal’ social-networking account information and profiles. The revised bill passed the Washington house and senate unanimously, and will go into effect on July 28, 2013. Washington thus became the ninth state to pass such legislation, which is intended to protect employee privacy in their non-public social networking activities.

    In its final form, the law still prohibits employers from “requesting, requiring, coercing, or causing” employees or job applicants to turn over login information, open their online profiles in the employer’s presence, add an employer representative to their accounts, or alter their privacy settings. The law also prohibits employer retaliation for employees’ refusals to comply with those unlawful requests. A violation of the law exposes the employer to liability for actual damages, injunctions, equitable remedies, a $500 penalty, and paying the employee’s attorneys’ fees. In short, the law has teeth to protect employee privacy.

    Even so, employers are protected, too. The law does not prohibit employers from requesting the content (but not logins) of its employees’ profiles during legitimate employer investigations, and it allows employers to (1) access and monitor its own intra- and extra-net communities, (2) require logins for job-required social networking accounts and employer-owned devices, (3) enforce personnel policies (consistent with the law’s prohibitions), and (4) require logins to comply with other applicable law. The law also has an “innocent discovery” rule, which says that an employer is not liable if it unintentionally receives protected employee logins during permitted monitoring activities.

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