Virginia’s New Social Media Protection Law
Virginia’s new social media law, which was signed into law on March 23, 2015, will go into effect July 1, 2015. Virginia H.B. 2081’s prohibits an employer from “requiring a current or prospective employee to disclose the username and password to his/her social media account. The measure also prohibits an employer from requiring an employee to add an employee, a supervisor, or an administrator to the list of contacts associated with the employee’s social media account.”
According to the Bill, “Social media account” means “a personal account with an electronic medium or service where users may create, share, or view user-generated content, including, without limitation, videos, photographs, blogs, podcasts, messages, emails, or website profiles or locations.” Accordingly, under this law, employers also cannot demand access credentials to employee personal email accounts.
Eighteen other states had actually already enacted similar legislation aimed at ensuring that employers do not attempt to unduly invade employee privacy with respect to social media accounts. Maryland was the first to do so when it passed SB 433 in 2012.
Virginia’s law has the following two exceptions: (1) the laws do not interfere with an employer’s legal obligations to self-regulate, and (2) employers still maintain rights to request account credentials if there is reasonable belief that social media account activity is relevant to an investigation by the employer into an employee’s breach of the law or company policy. The other eighteen states have similar exceptions.
Research suggests that these laws might not be necessary – there is little evidence to suggest a pervasive issue involving employers demanding employee personal account information. Nonetheless, the passage of Virginia’s law serves as a good reminder for employers to review their social media policy.