Oregon Legislature Sends Bill to Governor Limiting Company Access to Social Media

By Paul Shukovsky

SEATTLE--The Oregon Legislature May 16 passed a bill (H.B. 2654) with overwhelming bipartisan support that would prohibit employers from demanding that employees or job applicants provide access to their social media accounts.

The measure, headed to the desk of Gov. John Kitzhaber (D), would limit an employer's ability to require access to the login credentials of the personal social media accounts of employees or applicants. It also would restrict a company's ability to compel an employee or applicant to add the employer or an employment agency as an online contact. Retaliation by the employer for a refusal to provide such access or to friend the employer or agency also is prohibited under the bill.

The measure contains an exception for workplace investigations into employee misconduct or to comply with applicable laws or regulatory requirements. Those investigations, however, still must not require the submission of login credentials.

The bill also does not prevent an employer from complying with the rules of a self-regulatory organization. The financial securities industry has sought similar exceptions in the many social media privacy bills being debated across the country, arguing that without them, companies could not satisfy Financial Industry Regulatory Authority rules requiring securities firms to supervise, record, and maintain business-related communications (see related special report).

Banning 'Shoulder Surfing.’

The House approved the bill 56-3 on April 15, and the Senate voted 28-1 in favor on May 14. The state Senate inserted an amendment to prohibit what has been dubbed by lawmakers as “shoulder surfing,” which the House concurred in May 16.

Sen. Bruce Starr (R), one of the chief sponsors of the bill, told BNA May 14: “We don't want employers or prospective employers to look over your shoulder and view whatever is on your Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or any other social media. Across party lines, both the House and Senate recognized that to have employers demand access to your Facebook and Twitter feed just didn't make any sense.”

Rep. Margaret Doherty (D), also a chief sponsor of the legislation, told BNA May 14 that she and her staff have been working on the bill for months “talking to members of the tech community, privacy advocates, unions, and law enforcement community members.”

Promoting Privacy.

Sen. Tim Knopp (R), the bill's other chief sponsor, told BNA May 14, “When an applicant applies for a job, the employer doesn't ask to look at their mail. So why would they look at their Facebook account?”

By Paul Shukovsky

Copyright 2013, The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.