In our evolving technological world, more and more people are using social media for building both work and personal connections. This has presented a conflict in the workplace between a company’s need to protect its business interests and an employee’s concern with privacy. States have been wading into these waters with legislation limiting or prohibiting an employer’s request for employee social media user names, passwords, and other personal account information.
In New Hampshire, a bill that would prohibit an employer from requiring an employee or prospective employee to disclose his or her social media passwords passed the House, with amendment, and is before the Senate Commerce Committee. HB414 proposes a new “Use of Social Media” subdivision under the state’s protective legislation. This proposed law would prohibit a New Hampshire employer from requesting or requiring an employee or prospective employee to disclose a user name or password for any account primarily used for personal communications unrelated to any business purposes of the employer or to require an employee to add the employer to a list of contacts associated with the account. The proposed law would not limit an employer from adopting and enforcing workplace policies on the proper use of company equipment, monitoring the company’s systems, or obtaining information about an employee or prospective employee that is in the public domain.
This proposed bill raises issues for businesses who may be seeking this type of information from employees or prospective employees. For example, some employees use their personal accounts to promote a company product or business. In those situations, it may be difficult to categorize or determine if the accounts are “primarily used for personal communications” and beyond an employer’s reach. The broad definition of “social media” further adds to this dynamic. If enacted this year, the law would take effect 60 days after its passage.