Washington State has joined the ranks of Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Utah, in passing a law that prohibits employers from asking and gaining access to their employees’ private social media accounts. This law means that employers cannot:
- Ask for usernames and passwords of their employees’ social media accounts
- Make their employees go through their personal accounts in front of them
- Obligate their employees to add their employers as “friends” on social media
- Require employees to change their personal privacy settings in order to make their accounts information visible to the public (and thus them)
As stated by this new law, if any of the above is requested to an employee by their employer and refused, the employer cannot penalize or punish the employee in any way. If an employer abuses this new law, the employee has the right to sue the employer in civil court for up to $500 worth of statutory damages. They can also ask the court for compensation for “actual damages, injunctive relief and attorneys fees”, says AFIMAC.
So, whether you’re an employer or an employee working in Washington State, this is a new social media law that you need to be aware of. As an employer, if you have a policy or are used to gaining access to your employees’ personal social media accounts, it’s time to change your policies and your habits, since failing to do so can put your brand at risk – both reputational and legal risk.
Read: Now Illegal in 3 More States: Employers Cannot Request Passwords to Employee Social Media Accounts
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.
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