Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed into law HB 13-1046 which prohibits employers from requesting access to user names or passwords of employee’s or prospective employee’s social media accounts. This law goes into effect immediately and applies to any business, trade, industry or profession with the exception of government agencies. Other states (Arkansas, California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Utah and Washington) have similar laws in place.
This law also applies to employers who are conducting pre-employment screening and there are no exceptions even with consent by the applicant or employee.
The law states the employer may not suggest, require, or request an employee or applicant to do any of the following:
- Disclose any username, password, or other means for accessing the employee’s or applicant’s personal account or service including mobile devices
- Compel employees or applicants to add anyone to their list of contacts
- Change privacy settings of a social media account
An employer may not refuse to hire a candidate because he or she refuses to disclose the information as stated in the law. Furthermore, an employer may not terminate, discipline, or otherwise penalize an employee for his or her refusal to disclose any information provided under the law.
There are two exceptions to this new Colorado law. Employers are allowed to request access to user names and passwords to non personal accounts that are the employer’s computer or computer information systems. Next, employers are permitted to conduct investigations to ensure compliance with applicable securities or financial law or regulatory requirements, and to investigate whether an employee has made an unauthorized posting or downloading of the employer’s proprietary information or financial data to a personal account, internet web site, or other related account of an employee.
Even with these state laws are in place, this does not preclude an employer from accessing information in what would be considered public, which is fairly obtainable in many instances particularly social media sites such as LinkedIn.