New Jersey Facebook Bill Advances and Could Expose Employers to Additional Liability
New Jersey may soon join the ranks of other states that prohibit or seriously limit an employer’s right to request a current employee or applicant’s password, username, or similar information to social media websites such as Facebook. Unfortunately, the proposed New Jersey legislation as currently written will provide applicants and current employees with a potential new cause of action to assert against companies.
S-1915, otherwise known as the “Facebook Bill,” has advanced through the Senate Labor Committee. Although well-intentioned to protect privacy, it contains a troubling provision that would allow both applicants and current employees to sue companies for even inquiring about the existence of a Facebook or other social media account, even if the queries are for legitimate purposes such as conducting a workplace investigation. The bill would also prohibit retaliation against an employee or applicant who refuses to provide this information when requested. Violation of the law would subject employers to injunctive relief and compensatory relief, and it would permit plaintiffs to recover attorney’s fees just like the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and Conscientious Employee Protection Act.
In a state already replete with broad and unfriendly employment laws for businesses, this law would further limit an employer’s ability to fully assess applicants and conduct workplace investigations for violations for harassment and discrimination, among other issues. This bill goes beyond what is necessary to protect legitimate privacy interests and further exposes weary New Jersey employers to additional attorney’s fees and costs. Employers should monitor this piece of legislation and look to contact their local elected representatives to discuss their concerns about this bill.
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