On April 8, the Montana legislature sent its new social media law to the Governor for signature and on March 23, Virginia passed legislation prohibiting an employer from requiring, requesting, or causing a current or prospective employee to disclose his or her username and password of social media accounts or requiring an employee to obtain the username and password or other access to a current or prospective employee’s social media account. These two states have joined 17 others that contain similar prohibitions.
Connecticut and West Virginia failed to pass similar social media legislation earlier this month, and Mississippi and Wyoming rejected their proposed legislation in February.
Last year, approximately 28 states considered social media legislation that in general, prohibited employers access to social media accounts, but only 7 states were successful in enacting laws on the subject matter, including Louisiana, Maine (which authorized a study into the issue), New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. This brought the total number of states who have enacted such legislation to 17, as 10 states (Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Vermont (authorizing a study), and Washington) enacted social media legislation in 2013.
Employers doing business in these 19 states may wish to review the statutory prohibitions with counsel, and employers in the other states—keep watching social media legislation as your state is probably not far behind. Whether your state prohibits access to social media accounts of your employees or prospective employees through statute or not, this is an area that warrants caution.