Graduate student Teerah Goodrum provides updates on legislation in Pennsylvania's General Assembly
HB 1130 the Social Media Privacy Protection Act was laid on the table June 11, 2013 and will be considered for a floor vote when the House Assembly reconvenes. This bill protects employees and prospective employees from being required to disclose usernames, passwords, or other means for accessing a private or personal social media account, service, or internet website. An employer may not discharge, discipline, penalize, or threaten to penalize employees for refusing to disclose private social media information. If this bill is passed employers may not refuse to hire someone for refusing to disclose this information. If employers are found in violation of this law they will be subject to civil penalties up to $5,000 in addition to reimbursement for reasonable attorney fees.
Although employers cannot require private social media and service information to be provided, employers will not be limited in regulating and maintaining policies concerning electronic communications including internet usage, social media accounts, services, or internet websites and email use pertaining to the employer. Employers can monitor usage of employee’s electronic communications and obtain or view information concerning an employee or a prospective employee that exists in the public domain.
This bill maintains that employers cannot require employees and potential employees to provide information concerning their personal social media services and accounts. However, the information employers find in the public domain is fair game. Although there are protections for employees and employers in regards to social media and its regulation in the work place, users should be mindful of the information, views, and actions they display on public social media forums. This bill does not protect people against the repercussions of their actions due to personal, public social media use outside of work. Any effects to a person’s employment status due to publicly displayed, personal social media use is at an employer’s discretion.