New Jersey “Facebook Bill” Update
On March 21, the New Jersey General Assembly granted final legislative approval for bill A2878/S1915, commonly referred to as the “Facebook Bill”. If it becomes law, the Facebook Bill will prohibit employers from asking prospective or current employees to disclose their user name, password, or other means for accessing social networking websites.
Prior to the General Assembly’s final approval of this bill, significant floor amendments were adopted that will prove helpful to employers if it becomes law. These amendments ensure that if enacted, the Facebook Bill would allow employers to investigate social networking sites when necessary to comply with state and federal anti-discrimination laws. The amendments also safeguard employers that need to implement policies regarding the use of company issued electronic devices. Additionally, the term “personal account” for purposes of this legislation was clarified and defined to specifically exclude from its meaning those accounts that are maintained, used, or accessed for business purposes or business related communications.
Nevertheless, these amendments do not protect the employer from exposure to lawsuits by prospective, current, and former employees alleging violations of the Facebook Bill’s provisions. Given that a companion bill prohibiting higher education institutions from demanding social media information from job applicants was recently passed into law by Governor Christie in December 2012, employers should actively monitor the Facebook Bill’s status and prepare for potential changes to their social media policies. Should this legislation become law, the effective date will be the first day of the fourth month following enactment. Please check back periodically for updates about this legislation.