Social Media and New Jersey Law
Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Instagram; we all use them. Social media is a part of the fabric of most people’s lives in some way, shape, or form. However, things (like embarrassing pictures) are sometimes posted about you that you might not want your employer to see because it could have negative connotations towards your employment.
Are you aware of certain social media guidelines that are in place that govern New Jersey employees and their privacy? If you are not, you should be. In 2013, the Garden State joined multiple states by passing a bill that bars employers from requiring current or prospective employees to divulge their account usernames or passwords. For the sake of explanation, the bill ultimately bars employers from accessing employees’ personal social media accounts.
This law applies to all New Jersey employers, no matter the size of the business. The only employers who do not qualify for this law’s protections are county corrections departments, the Department of Corrections, State Parole Board, and law enforcement agencies.
There are four anti-retaliation provisions built into this law for employee protection. They include protecting employees who:
- Refuse to provide personal account information
- File a complaint with the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development
- Assist or testify in an investigation or proceeding concerning a possible violation
- Oppose a violation of this law
If an employee is terminated, declined an opportunity, or has their job status changed in any way because they refused to grant access to their personal social media accounts, the employer could face serious sanctions against them in the form of fines. Employers who are found in violation can face a penalty of $1,000 for the first offense and $2,500 for each subsequent offense.
However, everything is not that simple. The law regarding social media and employees’ privacy is narrow. The law does not apply to any social media accounts that were provided by the employer or are used by an employee for work-related activities. It will not prevent employers from opening a search into employee misconduct or the disclosure of confidential material, as long as the investigation was started because of the knowledge of wrongdoing from an employee’s activity on social media. Publicly available information about current or prospective employees is not protected by this law either.