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Oklahoma Restricts Employer Access to Social Media Accounts

By Michael Klazema on 6/20/2014

“Personal online social media account” is defined to mean an online account that is used by an employee or prospective employee exclusively for personal communications that an individual establishes and used through an electronic application, service or platform used to generate or store content, including, but not limited to, videos, still photographs, blogs, video blogs, instant messages, audio recordings or email that is not available to the general public. This broad definition includes e-mail, instant messaging, and media-sharing accounts. As stated in the law, the account must be used “exclusively for personal communications” to be protected under the law.

Effective November 1, 2014, employers are prohibited from:

  1. Requiring the disclosure of a username and password or other means of authentication for accessing personal online social media accounts;
  2. Requiring an employee or applicant to access a personal online social media account in the presence of the employer so that the employer can observe the contents of the account. An exception is provided for investigations;
  3. Taking retaliatory or adverse employment action against an individual for refusing to give access information; or
  4. Refusing to hire an applicant solely as a result of the applicant’s refusal to give access to personal online social media accounts.

Employers are not prevented from reviewing or accessing personal online social media accounts that an employee uses while utilizing an employers’ computer system, information technology network, or other electronic communication device.

Employees may be requested or required to disclose access information to any computer system, information technology network, or electronic communications device provided or subsidized by the employer.  Also, employers may access accounts or services that it provides, that is provided by virtue of the employment relationship, or that is used for business purposes.

Individuals may bring a civil action against an employer for violations of the law, but must do so within six months after the alleged violation occurs. Damages are capped at $500 per violation. The law does not provide for punitive or emotional damages.

Oklahoma joins Louisiana, Tennessee, and Wisconsin as the fourth state to enact social media legislation in the past few months.

Access House Bill 2372 here: http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf_pdf/2013-14%20ENR/hB/HB2372%20ENR.PDF


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