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Connecticut Passes Social Media Legislation

By Michael Klazema on 5/22/2015

Public Act 15-6 prohibits any person doing business and has employees from engaging in the following:

  1. Request or require that an employee or applicant provide it with a username and password, password or any other authentication means for accessing a personal online account;
  2. Request or require that an employee or applicant authenticate or access a personal online account in the presence of the employer;
  3. Require that an employee or applicant invite the employer or accept an invitation  from the employer to join a group affiliated with any personal online account of the employee or applicant;
  4. Discharge, discipline, discriminate or retaliate against, or otherwise penalize an employee who refuses an employer’s request or requirement to provide personal online account information, authentication, or access to the personal online account as described in item numbers 1 through 3.
  5. Fail or refuse to hire any applicant as a result of his or her refusal to provide personal online account information, authentication, or access to the personal online account as described in item numbers 1 through 3.

The law does not prohibit employers from taking action to protect its proprietary or confidential information, or financial data. Employers may request or require an employee or applicant to provide it with a username and password, password, or any other authentication means for accessing (a) an account or service provided by the employer or by virtue of the employee’s employment relationship with the employer, or (b) an electronic communications device supplied or paid for, in whole or in part, by the employer.

Employers are not prohibited from discharging, disciplining, or otherwise penalizing an employee or applicant that has transferred, without the employer’s permission, its proprietary or confidential information, or financial data to or from the employee or applicant’s personal online account.

Employers may conduct investigations to ensure compliance with applicable state or federal laws, regulatory requirements, or prohibitions against work-related employee misconduct if it receives specific information about activity on an employee or applicant’s personal online account. They can also conduct investigations if they receive specific information about an employee or applicant’s unauthorized transfer of the employer’s proprietary or confidential information, or financial data, to or from a personal online account operated by an employee or applicant, or other source. In these situations, employers may require an employee or applicant to give access to his or her online account.

The law does not prevent employers from monitoring, reviewing, accessing, or blocking electronic data on an electronic communications device paid for, in whole or in part, by an employer, or traveling through or stored on an employer’s network, in compliance with state and federal law.

Complaints about employer violations under the law will be investigated by the state’s Labor Commission. If the employee prevails, the commissioner may levy civil penalties against the employer up to $500 for the first violation and $1,000 for each subsequent violation.  A prevailing employee may be awarded appropriate relief including rehiring or reinstatement to his or her previous job, payment of back wages, re-establishment of employee benefits or any other remedies that the commissioner deems appropriate. Likewise, the commission may levy against the employer a civil penalty of up to $25 for the first violation against an applicant and $500 for each subsequent violation. Additionally, the prevailing employee or applicant will be awarded attorney fees and costs.

Connecticut’s social media ban is similar to the laws passed by sixteen other states, namely: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin. Go to the backgroundchecks.com Compliance Hub to view compliance updates about other social media laws: http://www.backgroundbiz.com/compliance/regulatory-archive.html.

You may access Public Act 15-6 here: http://www.cga.ct.gov/2015/ACT/PA/2015PA-00006-R00SB-00426-PA.htm

What This Means for You:

  • Connecticut has made it illegal for employers to require employees and applicants to disclose user name and passwords that would allow the employer to access personal online accounts. 
  • You should determine whether you have employees in the state of Connecticut. 
  • If you do, review your workplace policies and procedures with your lawyer to ensure compliance with the new law.

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