Author: Beth Zoller, XpertHR Legal Editor

As previously reported on XpertHR, many states have started to pass legislation protecting the privacy of employees and applicants by prohibiting employers from requesting or requiring that individuals provide their social media user names, passwords and account information. Michigan has followed suit by passing the Internet Privacy Protection Act, which specifically bans employers from requesting or requiring that employees or applicants grant access to, allow observation of or disclose information that allows access to or observation of personal internet accounts. +2011 Bill Text MI H.B. 5523; +2011 Bill Tracking MI H.B. 5523. The Act was signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder (R) on December 28, 2012 and took effect immediately. The Michigan law further prohibits employers from terminating, disciplining, failing to hire or penalizing an individual who refuses to provide such information.

The Michigan law is notable as it is more detailed than other state laws, and contains several exceptions clearly intended to shield employers from liability and protect employers in certain situations. An employer that violates Michigan's new law will be guilty of a misdemeanor and fined not more than $1,000. Individuals may bring a civil action to stop the employer from continuing to violate the law if they serve the employer with a written demand of the alleged violation and include reasonable documentation. In a civil action, an individual may recover not more than $1,000 in damages plus reasonable attorney fees and court costs. An employer may defend against such an action if it acted to comply with federal or state law requirements.

XpertHR has incorporated these changes into our Employment Law Manual, and other documents. For more information on this topic, refer to the following XpertHR Resources:

Employee Management > Employee Privacy: Michigan

Recruiting and Hiring > Interviewing and Selecting Job Candidates: Michigan > Social Media Privacy Protection Law

Whether Employers Like It or Not, Social Media Privacy Laws Are Catching Fire

Social Media Password Privacy Protection Legislation - Chart