New California Law Provides Employees Social Media Protections

Governor Brown signed into law Assembly Bill (“AB”) 1844, which offers new social media protections to employees. The new law prohibits three actions by employers. An employer may not require or even request an employee to (1) disclose a username or password for the purpose of accessing personal social media; (2) access personal social media in the presence of the employer; or (3) reveal any personal social media. These protections also apply to applicants for employment.

In addition, AB 1844 prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who refuse to comply with an employer’s request that is illegal under AB 1844.

The new law, however, permits employers to “request” an employee to turn over “personal social media” the employer reasonably believes to be relevant to an investigation of employee misconduct. Arguably, AB 1844 does not permit an employer to demand the passwords to an employee’s “personal social media.”

Although employees should remember that their social media is not fully protected from the employer, especially when the employer is investigating workplace misconduct, AB 1844 should eliminate many odious employer social-social media practices, such as demanding applicants to disclose their Facebook account passwords.

By Sean Graham

Legal Developments