by Saul C. Glazer
The question of whether employers can require applicants or current employees to divulge social media passwords has been hotly debated both from a legal and a moral standpoint. On April 8, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a bill protecting nonpublic social media accounts. This bill, which takes effect April 10, prohibits an employer, educational institution, or landlord from:
- Requesting an employee, applicant for employment, student, prospective student, tenant, or prospective tenant to grant access to, allow observation of, or disclose information that allows access to or observation of the personal Internet account of the employee, applicant, student, prospective student, tenant, or prospective tenant; and
- Discharging, expelling, suspending, disciplining, or otherwise penalizing or discriminating against any person for exercising the right to refuse such a request, opposing such a practice, filing a complaint or attempting to enforce that right, or testifying or assisting in any action or proceeding to enforce that right.
The bill, however, permits an employer, educational institution, or landlord to view, access, or use information about an employee, applicant for employment, student, prospective student, tenant, or prospective tenant that can be obtained without access information or that is available from the public domain.
The May 2014 issue of Wisconsin Employment Law Letter will contain a more detailed analysis of this law and the implications for employees and employers as it relates to social media policies.