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New Law Limits Employer Access to Employee Personal Online Accounts

In its most recent session, Connecticut’s General Assembly passed a new bill that will affect nearly all employers when it comes to requiring an employee to provide access or passwords to their personal online accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.   The Senate Bill (recently signed into law by Gov. Dannel Malloy), entitled “An Act Concerning Employee Online Privacy” will become effective October 1, 2015 and prohibits employers from requesting or requiring an employee or job applicant to  (1) provide the employer with a user name and password or any other means of authentication for accessing a personal online account; (2) authenticate or access a personal online account in the presence of such employer; or (3) invite, or accept an invitation from, the employer to join a group affiliated with such an account.

Since an employer is prohibited from requesting or requiring such information, it should come as no surprise that employers may not discipline, fire or otherwise retaliate against an employee who refuses to provide such information or access to it nor can they refuse to hire an applicant because the applicant would not provide access to his or her personal online account.  The bill allows for employees and applicants to file a complaint which can result in civil penalties up to $500 for initial violations and up to $1,000 for subsequent violations.   Although there are a few exceptions provided for investigations within the workplace, they are narrow and specific and should not be relied upon unless thoroughly considered and understood.

In the event you would like to discuss how this bill might impact your company’s policies or procedures, please feel free to contact the EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES GROUP.