Governor Christie Signs NJ Social Media Protections Into Law

September 11, 2013
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On August 29, 2013, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law legislation that prohibits employers from asking current or prospective employees for their social media passwords. In doing so, New Jersey joined 12 other states that have enacted similar bans since 2012: Arkansas; California; Colorado; Illinois; Maryland; Michigan; Nevada (effective 10/1/13); New Mexico; Oregon (effective 1/1/14); Utah; Vermont; and Washington. Delaware has enacted an analogous ban that is limited to protecting students at colleges (as does New Jersey in a law passed last December). The degree of protection afforded by these laws widely varies with some of the states imposing very broad prohibitions.  New Jersey, like Michigan, grants employers some exceptions, such as in the case of conducting necessary workplace investigations. Many New Jersey public employers, which deal in public safety, are exempted. When the law goes into effect on December 1st, New Jersey’s law will prohibit employers from requiring prospective and current employees from disclosing online user names and passwords. Here are some of the other key points contained in the new law:
  • Any employer may require that the login/password of any account maintained for business purposes of the employer — even if created by a current or prospective employee — be disclosed;
  • Employers can also demand login/password as part of several categories of workplace investigations;
  • Employers can ask a current or prospective employee if he/she has a social media account; and,
  • Any aggrieved current or prospective employee may report an alleged violation to the New Jersey Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development, but is not permitted to bring a private action against the employer.
Violations of the law carry civil penalties up to $1,000 for the first violation and $2,500 for each subsequent violation. The law also bars employers from requiring a prospective employee or applicant to waive or limit any protection granted under the bill as a condition of applying for or receiving an offer of employment. If you have any questions about this law or would like to discuss the legal issues involved, please contact me, Gary Young, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work.