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Maine employers have one more employment law to contend with this month. Maine’s Employee Social Media Privacy law becomes effective October 14.

The law covers all private and public employers in Maine regardless of the number of employees.

Under the law, employers may not:

  • Require, coerce or request an employee or applicant to disclose the password or any other means for accessing a personal social media account
  • Require, coerce or request an employee or applicant to access a personal social media account in the presence of the employer or an agent of the employer
  • Require or coerce an employee or applicant to disclose any personal social media account information (except when reasonably believed to be relevant to an investigation of allegations of employee misconduct or a workplace-related violation of applicable laws, rules and regulations)
  • Require or cause an employee or applicant to add anyone, including the employer or an agent of the employer, to the employee’s or applicant’s list of contacts associated with a personal social media account
  • Require or cause an employee or applicant to alter, or request that an employee or applicant alter, settings that affect a 3rd party’s ability to view the contents of a personal social media account;

Employers are also prohibited from refusing to hire an applicant or disciplining or discharging an employee for refusing to comply when an employer makes one of the above illegal requests.

Penalties

Penalties include a fine of $100 for the first violation, at least $250 for the second violation and at least $500 for each subsequent violation.

Exceptions

The law does not apply to publicly available information about an employee or applicant, nor does it prohibit an employer from complying with state or federal laws with a duty to screen applicants or monitor communications such as those under Securities and Exchange regulations or other state or federal laws. While employers may require disclosure of social media information for a workplace investigation which it reasonably believes to be relevant, this information may only be accessed and used for the investigation.

Employer Rights

Employers still retain rights to maintain workplace policies governing use of electronic equipment including requiring employees to disclose user names, passwords and other information needed to access employer issued electronic equipment.

Employer Guidance

  • Employers may be familiar with similar laws making the news which have been passed in other states restricting employers from requesting passwords, accessing social media accounts or altering privacy settings. Maine employers should be aware that prohibited practices under this new law also extend to social media contact lists.
  • Employers should examine their social media practices and policies to ensure compliance with the new law and train hiring managers on prohibited social media practices.
  • Those conducting workplace investigations also need training on when access to social media information is allowed.

If you have questions about how this new law might impact your organization, please contact KMA today.