Coming as no big surprise since other states, like Utah and California, have been passing similar laws, the President of the Oregon Senate recently signed the final version of HB 2654, which will prohibit Oregon employers from compelling employees or applicants to provide access to personal social media accounts, like FaceBook or Twitter.  The law will also keep off limit to employers other sites that allow users to create, share or view user-generated content (like videos, still photos, blogs, videos, podcasts or instant messaging, email or website profiles), and also prohibits requiring that employees allow the boss to join or "friend" them on social media sites.  It also prohibits retaliation against any employee or applicant who refuses to provide access to accounts or to add the employer to his or her contacts list. The law becomes effective in January 2014.

Specifically, under the new law Oregon employers will not be allowed to:

  • Require or ask an employee or applicant to share a username or password allowing access to a personal social media account;
  • Require employees or applicants to add their employers to their contacts or friends lists;
  • Compel employees or applicants to access the accounts themselves to allow the employer to view the contents of a personal social media account;
  • Take or threaten to take any action to discharge, discipline or otherwise penalize an employee who refuses to share their account access information, allow their employer to view content, or add the employer to their contact or friends list (or fail or refuse to hire an applicant for the same things).

On the other hand, under the new law Oregon employers may still:

  • Require employees to share usernames and passwords for social media accounts that are provided by the employer or are used on behalf of the employer;
  • Conduct investigations to ensure compliance with applicable laws, regulatory requirements or work-related employee misconduct rules if they receive specific information about employee activity on a personal social networking site, so long as the employer does not compel the employee to provide access to personal social media accounts;
  • Require an employee, as a part of an investigation, to share content that has been reported to the employer and is necessary to making a factual determination about the matter being investigated;
  • Continue to view any information online about employees or applicants that employees or applicants leave public.
  • Employers will not be liable for inadvertent access to personal social media accounts of employees.

HB 2654 is off to the Governor for signature, and there is little doubt Gov. Kitzhaber will sign it into law.  We’ll keep you posted on further developments.  In the meantime, now may be a good time to review your social networking policies and application materials to make sure they don’t run afoul of the new law.