2014 Social Media Law in Oregon

Is there a change to social media law in Oregon in 2014?

Social media law is changing: effective January 1, 2014, Oregon Law will offer additional protections to employee social media accounts. House Bill 2654 was enacted in May of 2013, effective 2014, to prevent employers from compelling their employees to provide passwords or other means of accessing private social media accounts.

The new law comes on the heels of news that employers in some states have required, either in the job application process or upon hire, that employees grant access to the employee social media accounts. As an increasing number of employers use social media including Facebook and Twitter in making their hiring decisions (37% of employers, in a recent survey), employees have become more aware and cautious about their online reputation and have begun using privacy settings to prevent their private photos, events and communications from being accessed. In response, employers (and particularly government employers) have demanded access by either requesting the user password or by observing as the employee accesses their account (what is known as “shoulder-surfing”).

Oregon’s law is squarely aimed at both password-sharing and shoulder-surfing. The law, which becomes part of the “unlawful employment practices” portion of the Oregon Revised Statutes, makes it improper for an employer to:

  • Require or request an employee or applicant to disclose their username and password;
  • Compel an employee or applicant to “friend” the boss;
  • Compel an employee or applicant to access the social media account in the presence of the employer (shoulder-surf).

Of course, employer concerns about an employee’s reputation based on social media are well founded, and many an employer has wished they knew more about an employee’s behaviors before hiring. In addition, employers have legitimate reasons to control the content of the social media accounts that their employees use professionally. The law provides and exception for employer controlled accounts and, notwithstanding the new law, there is a limited exception for investigations into employee misconduct.

So if you’re an employee, what do you do? Nothing about the new law prevents an employer from seeking information about an employee via social media presence, so continue to use professional judgment about what to post where. Further, your employer’s social media policy is still effective and governs what you do in your on-duty hours. However, you can point to the law in the event an employer asks you to disclose your social media password.

And what do you do if you’re an employer? First, review your social media policy and make sure it is not contrary to the new law. Second, train your manager under the new law. Third, make sure you understand when and how you can make use of the exceptions.

Leigh Gill

About the Author: Leigh Gill
Email: leigh.gill@immixlaw.com | Direct: (503) 802-5542

Having worked as a business analyst, project manager and consultant, Leigh’s desire is to understand the business need and apply effective real-world solutions to solve business problems.

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