We have previously reported on two “disasters” related to the misuse of social media information (see Alerts dated 12/5/13 & 3/17/14). Now we have news that Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill that places restrictions on employers seeking information from social media accounts. The law goes into effect on November 1, 2014 and permits recovery equal to $500 per violation or actual damages, whichever is greater. It prohibits and employers from, among other things, “requiring access to personal online social media account of certain employees” and prohibiting them from “taking retaliatory personnel action for failure to provide access to personal online social media account,” except if there is an investigation in compliance with laws and/or regulations in connection with receipt of information related to employee misconduct.
There are now three states with such laws (including Maine and Wisconsin, both in 2014). Additionally, similar legislation has been introduced or pending in at least 28 other states. Given aforementioned “disaster” cases, and given this trend toward protection of privacy rights as it relates to social media accounts, we think it would be prudent for employers not to delve into these waters.
By Art Gutman, Ph.D., Florida Institute of Technology