California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law a bill which largely prevents employers from obtaining information from employees and job applicants about their social media activities. The new law will prevent an employer from requiring an employee to (1) disclose a username or password to the employee’s personal social media; (2) access personal social media in the presence of the employer; or (3) divulge any personal social media unless the divulgence is reasonably related to an investigation of employee misconduct or employee violation of applicable laws. The new law also prohibits employer retaliation against an employee who refuses to comply with an employer request that violates the law’s provisions. The new protections apply not only to employees, but also to applicants for employment.
Some commentators have criticized the law’s failure to address social media accounts that are a mix of personal and professional information, and found its definition of social media to be too broad. The law defines social media as “an electronic service or account, or electronic content, including, but not limited to, videos, still photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant and text messages, email, online services or accounts, or Internet Web site profiles or locations.”
The California Labor Commissioner is authorized to enforce the law. No specific penalties are listed.
-Adam Nelson, Law Clerk at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz