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April 19, 2014

New Jersey Governor Christie The First to Stand Up to Social Media Legislation Wave?

New Jersey's legislature recently tried to make it the 8th state to restrict employers from requiring employees to provide social media passwords in the hiring and other employment processes. This trend, somewhat odd in that it addresses a problem that nobody seems to think actually exists (i.e. employers are not really requiring passwords of applicants), started approximately a year ago. New Jersey's legislation arguably would have been the most restrictive such legislation to date.

Governor Christie, however, vetoed the legislation, stating that he would like to see the measure change in the following respects:

1. Remove provisions preventing employers from even asking about the existence of social media accounts.

2. Add language to protect employers' ability to investigate workplace misconduct or data theft.

3. Maintain monetary penalties for violations, but not allow private lawsuits against aggrieved employees.

The measure originally passed the legislature overwhelmingly, so the Governor's veto could easily be overridden, but a compromise version may be agreed upon.  Regardless of the actual need for such legislation, it seems clear that we will continue to see states pass such measures, and employers will need to be vigilant as they will vary from state to state and may (whether intentionally or inadvertently) restrict activities that employers actually engage in.

© 2014 BARNES & THORNBURG LLP

About the Author

William A. Nolan, Barnes Thornburg Law firm, Labor Law Attorney
Managing Partner of the Columbus Office

William A. Nolan serves as the Managing Partner of Barnes & Thornburg LLP’s Columbus, Ohio, office, which he opened in 2009. He is a member of the firm’s Labor and Employment Law Department. Bill has extensive experience as a litigator, trial lawyer and counselor. His practice includes a broad range of issues that organizations face in our rapidly changing competitive, legal and workplace environments. In short, he works to help management structure organizations, practices and relationships to proactively minimize the business disruption of disputes, and to help clients...

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