Author: Beth P. Zoller, XpertHR Legal Editor

Employers in California should take note as Governor Edmund "Jerry" Brown has signed legislation, AB 1844, which will "protect Californians from unwarranted invasions of their social media accounts." Specifically, employers are now prohibited from requesting the social media user names and passwords of job applicants and employees to gain access to personal social media websites. Employers also may not discharge, discipline or otherwise retaliate against an employee or applicant for refusing to provide such information. The law contains an exception and does not affect an employer's right to request that an employee divulge personal social media information relevant to a workplace investigation of employee misconduct or a violation of the law. It also does not apply to passwords or information used on employer-issued electronic devices. The law will go into effect on January 1, 2013. +2011 Bill Text CA A.B. 1844; +2011 Bill Tracking CA A.B. 1844.

California now becomes the third state after Maryland and Illinois to pass such a "Facebook" privacy law. In light of the law's passage, employers should be prepared to make immediate changes to their policies and procedures regarding hiring practices and employee use of social media websites and other electronic equipment and technology in the workplace.

Additional Resources

Legislatures Aim to Protect Social Media Privacy of Employees and Applicants

Employee Management > Employee Privacy: California

Social Media Password Privacy Protection Legislation - Chart

Podcast: New Social Media Password Laws Put Employers on Guard