With more and more states banning employers from accessing password protected social media accounts, it is critically important for businesses to understand what is and is not permitted when it comes to social media in the workplace. Michigan is the most recent state to enact legislation to prohibit employers and schools from asking applicants, employees, and students for their online passwords or account information in order to access private internet and email accounts, which includes social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube, or other sites. Anyone who breaches this law may face jail time and up to a $1,000 fine. Michigan is not the only state to have enacted such legislation. California, Maryland, and Illinois have also enacted such legislation.
While this kind of legislation is important for businesses to be aware of, it's equally important for businesses to understand that they would be well served to draft a social media policy for their workplace. Drafting such a policy, idealy with the help of an internet lawyer, will allow the business to clearly identify what is acceptable and unacceptable usage inside and outside of a business workplace. It will also detail such things as what happens to the social media accounts when the employees employment is terminated. A properly drafted social media policy should comply with privacy laws, such as those mentioned above that continue to be regularly enacted. Without a social media policy, it may be difficult to discipline an employee or terminate an employee based upon social media activity.