Thursday, April 30, 2015

Social media protection for Virginia employees

The General Assembly passed and Governor McAuliffe signed legislation with these provisions:

"An employer shall not require a current or prospective employee to:
1. Disclose the username and password to the current or prospective employee's social media account; or
2. Add an employee, supervisor, or administrator to the list of contacts associated with the current or prospective employee's social media account. . . .

If an employer inadvertently receives an employee's username and password to, or other login information associated with, the employee's social media account through the use of an electronic device provided to the employee by the employer or a program that monitors an employer's network, the employer shall not be liable for having the information but shall not use the information to gain access to an employee's social media account. . . .

 An employer shall not:
1. Take action against or threaten to discharge, discipline, or otherwise penalize a current employee for exercising his rights under this section; or
2. Fail or refuse to hire a prospective employee for exercising his rights under this section."

The statute defines "social media account" as "a personal account with an electronic medium or service where users may create, share, or view user-generated content, including, without limitation, videos, photographs, blogs, podcasts, messages, emails, or website profiles or locations." A "social media account" does not include "an account (i) opened by an employee at the request of an employer; (ii) provided to an employee by an employer such as the employer's email account or other software program owned or operated exclusively by an employer; (iii) set up by an employee on behalf of an employer; or (iv) set up by an employee to impersonate an employer through the use of the employer's name, logos, or trademarks."

The term "employer" is defined to include "(i) any unit of state or local government and (ii) any agent, representative, or designee of a person or unit of government that constitutes an employer."