On April 22, Governor Beebe signed into law an act that could affect employers' social media and employee policies across the state. Act 1480 prohibits an employer from requiring or requesting current or prospective employees to disclose their social media account usernames or passwords. This law mirrors others being passed this year in state legislatures across the country.
Several aspects of the new law will force employers to revisit their policies on the issue of employee-created social media accounts to make certain the policies are in compliance. First, Act 1480 defines personal social media accounts as any electronic medium "where users may create, share, or view user-generated content." This includes common social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but also includes personal blogs or websites.
Second, Act 1480 not only prohibits an employer from requesting account information, but it also prohibits an employer from requiring, requesting or suggesting that an employee or prospective employee "friend" (connect with) a supervisor, or even another employee. In other words, an employer cannot suggest that any employees add a supervisor or co-worker to their list of associated social network contacts.
Finally, there are some key exceptions to the general prohibitions. The prohibition does not apply to company email accounts or to social media accounts an employer creates for business use. It also allows for employers to request an employee's username and password when it is "reasonably believed to be relevant to a formal investigation or related proceeding" of possible violations of federal and state laws, or of the employer's written policies.
This is a fast-evolving area of employment law, and employers should educate supervisors and company recruiters about Act 1480 and modify employee policies and procedures accordingly.