New Connecticut Law Regulates Employer’s Online Activity
As if the National Labor Relation Board’s aggressive expansion of social media protection wasn’t enough, Connecticut businesses must now contend with new legislation targeting employer’s online activity. On May 19, 2015, Governor Malloy signed into law “An Act Concerning Employee Online Privacy.” With this Act, Connecticut joins more than 20 other states to have legislation restricting an employer’s access to the social media accounts of applicants and employees. The Act, which goes into effect October 1, 2015, prohibits employers from requiring employees or applicants to:
- Provide their user name and password or any other access to an employee’s personal online account;
- Access an online account in the employers presence
- Accept an invite or other invitation from the employer to join a group associated with the employee’s online account. The Act applies to both private and public employees and offers few limited exceptions.
Fines for violations of the Act range from $25 against applicants and $500 against employees and can increase to $500 and $1,000 for continuing or repeat violations.
Fortunately, this new Act doesn’t cover any account created, maintained, used, or accessed by an employee or applicant for the employer’s business purposes. Furthermore, employers will still be able to monitor, review, access or block electronic data stored on an electronic communications device paid for by an employer, or traveling through or stored on an employer’s network.
Additionally, employers can conduct an investigation: based on receiving specific information about activity on an employee’s or applicant’s personal online account to ensure compliance with (a) applicable state or federal laws, (b) regulatory requirements, or (c) prohibitions against work-related employee misconduct.
An employer conducting these investigations can require an employee to provide access to a personal online account, but cannot require disclosure of the user name, password, or other means of accessing the personal online account. For example, an employee or applicant under investigation could be required to privately access a personal online account, but then provide the employer with access to the account content.
Connecticut’s regulatory environment just got a little more challenging, and, as a result, employers should review their Internet policies and practices to ensure compliance.