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The Law of Social Media

Jan 9 | 2012  by

Michigan joins the growing list of states to pass legislation that limits employers’ right to seek social media login information from employees or applicants. Governor Rick Snyder recently signed into law the Internet Privacy Protection Act.

This new law makes it illegal for employers to request or require employees or applicants to provide login information to online accounts, such as Facebook. The law also prohibits discharging, disciplining, failing to hire, or otherwise penalizing a person who fails to provide access to an online account. The law also applies to educational institutions.

Employers who violate this new law are guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine of up to $1,000. The law also allows individuals damaged by a violation to bring a civil action in district court to recover up to $1,000, plus attorney fees and costs.

There are a few exceptions to the law, including login credentials for company-paid devices and employees using personal accounts to disclose proprietary or confidential information without authorization. The Act also recognizes employers may need to violate it to stay in compliance with other state or federal laws.  This situation provides an affirmative defense to an alleged violation. Employers are still permitted to use social media to research applicants or when deciding to implement employment decisions.

Michigan joins California, Maryland, Delaware, Illinois, and New Jersey in the expanding list of states with similar laws.

If you have questions about employment law or other legal issues, contact Fausone Bohn, LLP at (248) 380-0000 or online at FB-Firm.com. To read more about this issue, please visit the Michigan Legislature website.