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Washington Passes Social Media Privacy Law

For businesses that use social media to vet job applicants or to monitor employees, change is afoot. The Governor has signed into law a bill that makes it illegal for any employer in Washington to require an employee or applicant to provide access to his or her social media account. This law covers any employer with one or more employees, and it goes into effect July 28, 2013. The law prohibits employers from requesting, requiring, or coercing a current employee or job applicant into doing any of the following: Giving the employer the login information to a private social media account; “Friending” a manager or other third person so the employer can view the individual’s account; Requiring that the employee change his or her privacy settings to make the account publicly available; and Logging into the account in the employer’s presence so as to enable the employer to view the content. The law expressly prohibits employers from taking any “adverse action” against an employee for refusing to engage in any of these prohibited acts. This means firing, refusing to hire, or disciplining the employee or applicant, or threatening to do so. Eleven states have now enacted laws of this nature, and similar legislation is being considered in over thirty more.

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