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Employment law

social media & employee privacy

Many states have enacted social media privacy laws (statutes) that prohibit an employer from requesting or requiring an employee or job applicant to disclose their username or password on any personal social media account—or requesting or requiring the employee access the social media account in the presence of the employer. These laws often also prohibit an employer from penalizing, disciplining, or terminating/discharging an employee for refusing to disclose such information.

Social media privacy laws vary from state to state and may not apply if the employer is investigating an allegation of employee misconduct (harassing another employee on social media) or a violation of laws and regulations (communications on social media about workplace safety violations). And an employer may require or request an employee disclose a username, password, or other means of accessing an electronic device (phone, computer, tablet) issued by the employer.

States with specific social media privacy laws for the workplace include:

• Arkansas
• California
• Colorado
• Connecticut
• Delaware
• Illinois
• Louisiana
• Maine
• Maryland
• Michigan
• Montana
• Nebraska
• Nevada
• New Hampshire
• New Jersey
• New Mexico
• Oklahoma
• Oregon
• Rhode Island
• Tennessee
• Utah
• Vermont
• Virginia
• Washington
• West Virginia
• Wisconsin

In states without specific social media privacy laws for the workplace, other general privacy laws may apply.

As of the current knowledge cutoff in 2023, Texas does not have a specific statute that addresses the issue of employer access to employee or applicant social media accounts. Unlike the states listed, Texas has not enacted legislation that explicitly prohibits employers from requesting or requiring usernames, passwords, or other access to personal social media accounts. However, employees and job applicants in Texas may still have some level of protection under general privacy laws and principles, as well as under federal laws such as the Stored Communications Act or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which may limit an employer's ability to access private online information. Employers in Texas should still be cautious and consider the privacy implications when dealing with employees' or applicants' personal social media accounts, especially in the context of investigations into misconduct or legal compliance issues.

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