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Connecticut Becomes Latest State to Protect Employee Online Accounts From Employer Inquiries

We have regularly reported on states as far flung as Rhode Island, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Wisconsin passing laws limiting employers’ ability to check their employees’ and applicants’ online accounts. Effective October 1, 2015, Connecticut employers join the list of those generally restricted from accessing the social media accounts of their employees and applicants.

The law, titled “An Act Concerning Employee Online Privacy,” prohibits employers from requesting or requiring employees and applicants to provide log in information for their “personal online accounts,” log into such accounts in the employer’s presence, or invite the employer or accept an invitation from the employer to join a group affiliated with the employee or applicant’s online account. State and municipal law enforcement agencies conducting pre-employment investigations of law enforcement personnel are excluded.

Employers are forbidden from terminating, disciplining, or, in the case of applicants, refusing to hire individuals who refuse to provide employers with their online accounts’ login information. Employers also cannot retaliate against individuals who file a complaint due to an employer’s violation. Penalties for violations range up to $1,000 for repeat offenders.

One interesting aspect of the law is that employers’ are prohibited from checking all “personal online accounts,” which include not just social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram but also email and retail Web sites. However, these accounts must be truly “personal” – they must be used exclusively for personal purposes and must be unrelated to any business purpose of the employer’s.

In passing this law, Connecticut has become part of the growing trend to protect online information from employers. If you have any questions about the rare exceptions to this law, consult with labor and employment counsel.

Brody and Associates regularly advises management on complying with the latest state and federal employment laws. If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.965.0560.