Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed into law Substitute Senate Bill 5211, which prohibits employers from requiring current or prospective employees to:

  • disclose account passwords for social media accounts;
  • pull up their password-protected personal social media accounts or profiles; or
  • add people as contacts associated with, or give anyone access to view the contents of, the social media account or profile.

The law further prohibits adverse action against someone who refuses a request in violation of the law and prescribes monetary remedies ($500 penalty, compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees) and injunctive relief for violations. Limited exceptions apply, including in the context of an investigation for misconduct or as otherwise required by law, and the law does not restrict employer access of otherwise publicly-available information.

With the governor’s signature, the law will become effective July 28, 2013, and Washington will be the ninth state with such protections, joining states such as Illinois and Maryland (see August 2012 FEB), California (see October 2012 FEB), and Arkansas, New Mexico, and Utah (see May 2013 FEB). Similar bills are pending before Congress and in New Jersey and Oregon.