by Philip Bruce
Oklahoma has joined the ranks of states that limit employers’ ability to require access to applicants’ and employees’ social media accounts. Governor Mary Fallin signed the law on May 21, and it will go into effect on November 1, 2014.
The law prohibits almost all employers from requiring employees or prospective employees to provide user names, passwords, or access to their social media accounts. The law makes it illegal to take adverse action against employees or applicants for refusing to give access to their social media accounts.
The law includes certain exceptions, however. For example, the law allows employers to obtain access to an employee’s account as part of a work-related investigation. Also, employers can require employees to provide access to work-related accounts and electronic devices such as smartphones and e-mail accounts.
In addition, employers can still make personnel decisions based on an employee’s poor performance or another legal reason if the employee refuses to provide access to a social media account. Also, employers are free to access social media information that is available to the general public.
Violations of the law have less serious consequences than violations of many other employment laws. Employees or applicants must file a lawsuit within six months of the violation, and those who file suit have a higher burden of proof than those who file other types of employment lawsuits. Also, damages are limited to $500 per occurrence, and punitive or emotional distress damages cannot be imposed.
More information on the social media law will be available in the June issue of Oklahoma Employment Law Letter.