California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law a bill which largely prevents employers from
obtaining information from employees and job applicants about their
social media activities. The new law will prevent an employer from
requiring an employee to (1) disclose a username or password to the
employee's personal social media; (2) access personal social
media in the presence of the employer; or (3) divulge any personal
social media unless the divulgence is reasonably related to an
investigation of employee misconduct or employee violation of
applicable laws. The new law also prohibits employer retaliation
against an employee who refuses to comply with an employer request
that violates the law's provisions. The new protections apply not only to
employees, but also to applicants for employment.
Some commentators have criticized the law's failure to address
social media accounts that are a mix of personal and professional
information, and found its definition of social media to be too
broad. The law defines social media as "an electronic service
or account, or electronic content, including, but not limited to,
videos, still photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant
and text messages, email, online services or accounts, or Internet
Web site profiles or locations."
The California Labor Commissioner is authorized to enforce the
law. No specific penalties are listed.
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Corporate tweeters or bloggers – employees who post promotional and often entertaining commentary on behalf of their employers’ businesses – add much of their own personal brand – their voice, their opinions, their snarky remarks – to the information they are disseminating on the company’s behalf.