New Washington Law Tightens Social Media Privacy Rights for Employees and Job Applicants

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Governor Inslee recently signed into law a bill tightening the social media privacy rights of employees and job applicants. The new law makes it unlawful for employers to require an individual to give access to his or her social networking account as a condition of employment. Other prohibited employer conduct includes requesting the individual’s passwords, compelling the individual to “add” the employer to the list of contacts, or making the individual change his or her privacy settings to allow third-party viewing.

Good news for employers, the statute does not cover employee information in the public domain, nor does it cover computer, phones or PDAs paid for or supplied by the employer. Additionally, as a carve-out exception, employers are allowed to undertake an investigation in response to a tip about potential legal violations, work-related employee misconduct, or misappropriation of certain employer information so long as the employer does not ask for login information.

Employers engaging in activity in violation of this new law may be liable for a $500 penalty fee as well as actual damages, attorney’s fees and costs. Therefore, it is important to review the new law (available here) and update social media policies and practices.


About the Authors

Lauren Parris Watts

Lauren Parris Watts’ practice focuses on representing and advising individual clients and small to medium-sized business clients in risk management, contractual matters, employment and general tort litigation. She counsels clients on a variety of issues, including compensation and severance agreements, non-competition and non-solicitation restrictions, disability accommodations, FMLA and other leave rights and misconduct investigations. She also represents her clients in lawsuits alleging wrongful termination, sexual harassment, retaliation and discrimination.

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