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Louisiana Restricts Employer Access to Social Media Accounts

By Michael Klazema on 6/2/2014

Louisiana House Bill 340 was adopted and sent to Governor Jindal for executive approval on May 15, 2014. This bill, cited as the “Personal Online Account Privacy Protection Act,” prohibits employers and educational institutions from requesting or requiring access to the personal online accounts of job applicants, employees, students and prospective students. The new law goes into effect immediately.

The Act applies to “educational institutions” and “employers.”  The definition of “educational institutions” is all-inclusive. It applies to all universities, colleges and academies, secondary schools, kindergarten and nursery schools, professional, technical and vocational schools, as well as, public and private education testing service or test administrators, and agents of educational institutions. “Employer” is defined to mean a person, including a unit of state or local government, engaged in a business, industry, profession, trade, or other enterprise in the state, and includes an agent, representative, or designee of the employer.

The Act makes it unlawful for an employer to:

  1. Request or require an employee or applicant for employment to disclose any username, password, or other authentication information that allows access to the employee’s or applicant’s personal online account; or
  2. Discharge, discipline, fail to hire, or otherwise penalize or threaten to penalize an employee or applicant for failure to disclose any information provided for under Act.

Similarly, educational institutions are prohibited from engaging in the same conduct towards students and prospective students.

The Act does permit certain access to or disclosure of personal internet accounts. Under the Act, employers (or educational institutions) may gain access to or operate accounts, services, or electronic devices that it provides to employees (or students). Also, the prohibition does not apply to information obtained lawfully or that is found in the public domain. Nothing in the Act prohibits employees (or students) from self-disclosing usernames, passwords, or other authentication information to allow employers access to personal online accounts.

The restrictions under the Act do not apply when employers (or educational institutions) are required by state or federal laws, rules or regulations, case law, or rules of self-regulatory organizations to screen employees or applicants (students or prospective students) prior to hiring or to monitor or retain employee communications. Also, employers may require an employee to provide a personal e-mail address in order to facilitate communication with the employee in the event the employer’s e-mail system fails.

The passage of this legislation makes three states this year that have enacted laws restricting employer access to social media accounts. Tennessee did it earlier this month, and Wisconsin passed a social media law in April. We will let you know if other states pass similar legislation.

Access to House Bill 340 is available here:  http://legiscan.com/LA/text/HB340/id/1027971/Louisiana-2014-HB340-Chaptered.pdf 

Compliance Update (5/20/2014) – Tennessee: http://www.backgroundbiz.com/compliance/complianceupdate_05202014.html

Compliance Update (4/22/2014) – Wisconsin: http://www.backgroundbiz.com/compliance/complianceupdate_04222014.html



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