On August 28, 2013, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie approved Assembly Bill 2878 that prohibits employers from obtaining user access information to personal social media accounts of employees and applicants. The bill goes into effect on December 1, 2013.
The new law prohibits employers from:
- Requiring or requesting a current employee or applicant to provide or disclose any username or password, or in any way provide the employer access to a personal account through an electronic communications device;
- Requiring or requesting a current employee or applicant from disclosing whether he or she has a personal social media account; and
- Requiring an individual to waive or limit any protections granted under the law as a condition of applying or receiving an offer of employment.
The new law also prohibits employers from retaliating or discriminating against an individual for refusing to disclose a username or password or for refusing to provide access to a personal account. The law protects individuals from alleged violations of the law and for participating in an investigation concerning a violation of the law.
The new law applies only to personal social media accounts. It does not apply to social media accounts related to the business of the employer or used for business-related communications. Nothing in the bill prohibits employers from asking applicants or employees if they have a social media account or from viewing publicly available social media content. Employers may conduct investigations to ensure compliance with the law and to investigate work-related employee misconduct, including potential disclosures of the employer’s proprietary, confidential, or financial information. Employers may view, access, or use information about an employee or applicant that can be obtained in the public domain.
The new law authorizes the New Jersey Department of Labor to pursue civil penalties of up to $1,000 for the first violation and $2,500 for each subsequent violation of the law.
Assembly Bill 2878 is available here: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2012/Bills/A3000/2878_R4.PDF.