Starting December 1st, if New Jersey employers want to access their employees’ social media login information, they can fuhgeddaboudit.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a new law at the end of August aimed at limiting employer access to social media login information for employees and job applicants. In passing the bill, New Jersey joined 12 other states and the international trend toward protecting workers’ social media privacy rights.

A prior version of the bill received nearly unanimous approval by both legislative chambers last year, but Governor Christie conditionally vetoed it. Christie was concerned the earlier version could limit employers’ abilities to screen applicants, oversee employees, and protect business assets.

Under the amended version, employers can’t make employees or applicants disclose login information about their personal social media accounts and an employee can’t waive those rights. It also penalizes any retaliation against the employee for reporting or cooperating in an investigation into a violation of the law. The price tag for a first offense is $1,000, with up to $2,500 for each subsequent violation.

But, largely at Governor Christie’s urging, some of the privacy provisions were dialed back to give the employer some protections.

For example, the “personal” element of the social media account is key. The law doesn’t protect any account created, maintained, used, or accessed by that person to engage in business-related communications.

And lawmakers deleted a provision that would have barred employers from even asking if an employee or applicant had a social media account. According to the governor, this language would penalize legitimate questions aimed at evaluating a person’s technological skills and social media savvy.

The amended bill also allows employers to:

  1. probe to ensure an employee is complying with laws, regulations, or prohibitions against work-related employee misconduct;
  2. investigate an employee’s unauthorized transfer of the employer’s proprietary, confidential, or financial data to a personal account;
  3. implement and enforce a policy for company-issued electronic devices or accounts, or services used for business purposes; or
  4. access and use information about employees or applicants available in the public domain.

The takeaway here?

Employees, lock down the privacy setting on your social media profiles.

Employers, review your social media policies and HR practices to be sure you’re not overreaching your access rights to employees’ social media accounts. That, and have a field day searching your employees’ names on Google.