PROVIDENCE (Aug. 1, 2014) – Matt Plain was quoted at length in Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly on how employers might be impacted by a new Rhode Island social media privacy law.
The recently passed statute prohibits employers from forcing employees and job applicants to disclose passwords, user names and content from their accounts with online services such as Facebook and Twitter. The law permits employees and job applicants to sue for damages for violations of their social media privacy rights.
In the article, which was published in the Aug. 4 issue, Plain observed that the new law is unclear on how much access employers have to employee social media accounts when investigating alleged employee wrongdoing, such as sexual harassment.
“Allegations or investigations of employee misconduct can mean a lot of things,” Plain said. “Does that give the employer the ability to go to John and say, ‘Show me your Facebook account so I can see if you were giving your co-worker a hard time?’ Those will be things that, at some point, will need to be decided by a judge.”
Plain also noted that the law allows employer access to publicly available information online, such as postings on Facebook or Twitter.
“The law doesn’t take away the tool whereby the employer can view ‘publicly available’ information about an employee or job applicant,” Plain said. “That’s specifically excepted under the act.”
Plain focuses his practice on labor and employment law, as well as advising school boards, administrators and teachers on school law issues.
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