In 2013 the Oregon Legislature passed a “social media protection” law. The law went into effect on January 1, 2014. The purpose behind HB 2654 is to preserve the distinction between what information they have on social media is public and what information is private from their employer.
HB 2654 prohibits employers from:
- Requiring or requesting that an employee or applicant for a job disclose as a condition of employment log-in information to any password-protected accounts, including email and social media, that belong to the employee;
- Require that an employee or applicant add the employer to a contact list associated with the social media (For instance, requiring an employee to an employer as a LinkedIn connection)
- Requiring from an employee or applicant access to private material through indirect routes such as requiring employees to add them to their private social networks (e.g., by “friending” them) or looking through the account in the presence of the applicant (aka, “shoulder surfing”) as a condition of employment benefits or privileges,
- And discharging or otherwise penalizing any employee who refuses to provide access to private materials, or to threaten to do so, or refusing to hire anyone for that reason.
This doesn’t prevent an employer from searching for an employee’s public social media information. So if an employee has a public Facebook profile, an employer may still search and review public content. However, some employers had in the past required all employees to provide social media account login credentials to monitor employees use of social media during work hours, and I assume to see if the employee was discussing their employment with others.
While it seems pretty straightforward, for white-collar professionals in particular there are some interesting scenarios where the law will need likely some interpretation by the courts. For instance, at our office, I urge attorneys to join LinkedIn and make relevant connections. Including me. As their “employer”, is that compelling an employee to connect with my LinkedIn account? While I may think it’s just a good business and professional decision, a new attorney may consider it a directive.
We all need to be careful in the new media world of business and how it affects employment. Employees shouldn’t mix business with personal. And employers should respect the privacy of their employees.