In a law that became effective July 28, Washington State has forbidden employers from ever requesting login information to social media accounts from employees for any reason.

Specifically, employers may not:

  • Request, require, or coerce an employee to disclose login information for a personal social-networking account;
  • Request, require, or coerce an employee to access his or her account in the employer’s presence so that the employer can observe its contents;
  • Compel or coerce an employee to add someone as a contact associated with such an account;
  • Request or require that an employee alter a third party’s ability to access an account; or
  • Take an adverse action against an employee or applicant for refusing any such act.

Under the law, employers retain rights to any company electronic online service, such as intranet, Facebook accounts or websites, and company electronic devices, such as smartphones, laptops and tablets.

For legitimate investigative purposes involving possible compromise of proprietary company information and/or suspected criminal actions, employers may demand access to the content of employee private social media accounts, but never the login information.

Washington is the eighth state to enact similar legislation in 2013. The others are Arkansas, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Vermont. Legislation is pending in at least two dozen other states.