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New Hampshire Restricts Employer Access to Social Media and Electronic Mail

By Michael Klazema on 10/27/2014

The new Act amends New Hampshire’s Revised Statutes Annotated by inserting §§ 275:71 – 275:73. 

Under the new Act, employers may not:

  1. Request or require an employee or applicant to disclose login information for accessing any personal account or service through an electronic communication device;
  2. Compel an employee or applicant to add anyone, including the employer or its agent, to a list of contacts associated with an electronic mail account or personal account;
  3. Require an employee or applicant to reduce the privacy settings associated with any electronic mail or personal account that would affect a third party’s ability to view the contents of the account; or
  4. Take or threaten to take disciplinary action against an employee for refusing to comply with a request or demand by the employer that violates the Act.

The restrictions do not apply to an account or service provided as a result of the employment relationship or to an electronic communications device or online account paid for or supplied by the employer. Employers may adopt and enforce lawful workplace policies governing the use of the employer’s electronic equipment, including policies regarding Internet use, social networking site use, and electronic mail use. Employers can monitor usage of its electronic equipment and electronic mail. If it inadvertently receives an employee’s password or other authentication information, the employer is not liable for having this information, but it cannot use the information to access an employee’s personal accounts.

Nothing in New Hampshire’s new law prohibits employers from obtaining information about an employee or applicant that is in the public domain.

Employers may conduct investigations to ensure compliance with laws and work-related policies based on information about activity on an employee’s personal account or service. Investigations may also be conducted based on the receipt of specific information about the unauthorized transfer of the employer’s proprietary information, confidential information, or financial data to a personal online account or service by an employee or other service. Employees may be required to cooperate in these investigations and share only the content that has been received by the employer so that the employer can make a factual determination.

The labor commissioner may assess penalties for violations under the law.

New Hampshire is the fifth state to enact social media restrictions this year, joining Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Other states with similar laws include Colorado, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, and Oregon.

You may access New Hampshire’s House Bill 1407 here: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2014/HB1407.pdf

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