Washington’s law, codified as RCW 49.44, specifically prohibits employers from requesting employees’ user names and passwords and substantially restricts when employers may ask employees to reveal the content of such sites. The law took effect July 28, 2013.
RestrictionsEmployers may not:
- Request, require, or coerce an employee to disclose login information for a personal social-networking account;
- Request, require, or coerce an employee to access his or her account in the employer’s presence so that the employer can observe its contents;
- Compel or coerce an employee to add someone as a contact associated with such an account;
- Request or require that an employee alter a third party’s ability to access an account; or
- Take an adverse action against an employee or applicant for refusing such acts.
What’s Not RestrictedEmployers’ access to employer-provided electronic devices (smartphones, laptops, and tablets, for example); online services provided by the employer (including the employer’s intranet, website, Facebook site, and Twitter feed); or social media accounts are not subject to the law’s restrictions. The law also does not prohibit employers from asking for login or content information associated with a network, intranet, or other platform intended primarily for work-related information exchange, collaboration, or communication.
Finally, employers may still demand access the content of their employees’ private social media accounts when conducting certain investigations (although they may never request login information). For example, employers investigating alleged employee violations of state or federal laws, regulations, or employee-conduct rules may access the content of social media accounts. Employers may also access the content of social media accounts to investigate allegations that an employee has improperly transferred the employer’s proprietary or confidential information, or the employer’s financial data.