PROTECTING YOUR RIGHTS: Can employers demand access to your Facebook account?

Editor’s Note: The FilAm Los Angeles will feature employment and consumer questions in a column called “Protecting Your Rights.” We are proud to have on board a team of equal employment experts and Filipino American attorneys who are well known in their field and the courts. Lawyer C. Joe Sayas, Jr., Esq. starts his column this week about the rights of employees in refusing their employers access to their Facebook accounts.

By Atty. C. Joe Sayas, Jr.

If employers ask for your Facebook username and password, can they legally deny you employment if you refuse? Can your employer legally terminate you if you refuse them access to your social media accounts?

In a move to prevent unwarranted intrusion into employees’ social media accounts, California recently passed a law that prohibits employers from demanding user names, passwords or any other information related to social media accounts from employees and job applicants.

The law defines social media to include an electronic service or account, or electronic content, including videos, still photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant and text messages, email, online services or accounts, or internet website profiles or locations.

The law states that an employer shall not require or request an employee or job applicant to do any of the following:

1) Disclose a username or password for the purpose of accessing personal social media.
2) Access personal social media in the presence of the employer (“shoulder surfing”).
3) Divulge any personal social media, unless such information is used solely in relation to an investigation of workplace misconduct.

If an employee refuses to comply with the employer’s demand for username or password, the employer shall not discharge, discipline, threaten to discharge or discipline, or retaliate against an employee or applicant for such refusal.

Take note, however, an employer may legally require an employee to disclose a username or password for the purpose of accessing an employer-issued electronic device. For example, the employer may ask the password to the company-issued laptop you are using. In a similar vein, employees need to be reminded that employers may legally monitor their employees’ computer and Internet activities in the workplace, particularly where the employer provided the computer system and Internet access.

The role of the Internet and social media and how these impact the workplace is evolving. At present, there are very few laws that clearly spell out an employee’s right of privacy where social media is concerned. However, proponents of this new legislation say that it is a common-sense measure that will bring clarity to a murky area of employment law.

joe sayasAtty. C. Joe Sayas, Jr. is an experienced trial attorney who has successfully obtained several million dollar recoveries for consumers against insurance companies and employers. He has been selected as a Super Lawyer by the “Los Angeles Magazine,” and is a member of the Million Dollar-Advocates Forum, a prestigious group of trial lawyers whose membership is limited to those who have demonstrated exceptional skill, experience and excellence in advocacy. He has been featured on the cover of “Los Angeles Daily Journal’s” Verdicts and Settlements for his professional accomplishments. He is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center Washington, D.C. and the University of the Philippines. His firm has assisted working men and women — including drivers, technicians, parking attendants, couriers, caregivers, cashiers, salespersons, security guards, secretaries, machinists, nurses, accountants, and grocery clerks – recover overtime and meal break compensation by winning individual and class-action lawsuits.

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