By: Brittany Flaherty Theis

Public Act 97-0875, which takes effect January 1, 2013, prohibits employers from requesting any employee or prospective employee to provide password or other related account information in order to access a person’s account or profile on a social networking website. Employers cannot demand access in any manner to an employee’s or prospective employee’s account or profile on a social networking website.

The Act defines “social networking website” to include Internet-based services through which individuals can create profiles, a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and navigate that list and those made by others within the system. Thus, sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn would fall within this definition.

While employers can no longer request passwords or other account information to access an employee or potential employee’s social networking site, an employer still has the right to: 1) maintain lawful workplace policies governing the use of the employer’s electronic equipment (including Internet use, social networking site use, and email use); 2) obtain information about employees or prospective employees that is in the public domain; and 3) monitor usage of the employer’s electronic equipment and the employer’s email.

For example, if a parent reported to a school district that a teacher has made an inappropriate comment on a student’s Facebook page, the district can still investigate the allegation (although the investigation cannot include requiring the employee to provide account information to access that employee’s Facebook page) and take appropriate disciplinary action.

If you would like us to review your social media policy, please contact Whitt Law Attorney Brittany Flaherty Theis.

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