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Update: Governor Christie Vetoes “Facebook Bill”

On May 6, 2013, Governor Christie conditionally vetoed Assembly Bill 2878, the so-called “Facebook Bill.”  If enacted, it would have prohibited an employer (other than law enforcement agencies or corrections departments) from requiring or requesting a current or prospective employee to provide a user name or password, or access to a personal account on a social networking site.  Although he termed the bill well-intentioned, he stated that the proposed legislation painted with “too broad a brush” because it contained provisions that would also allow an employee or job applicant to sue for an injunction and damages, including attorneys’ fees, even in cases in which the inquiry was innocuous and relevant to the job.  He gave the example of an employer interviewing a candidate for a marketing job who would be prohibited under the bill from asking about the candidate’s use of social networking in order to assess his or her technological skills and media savvy.

The Governor’s conditional veto cited the need to balance the privacy concerns of job candidates and employees “against an employer’s need to hire appropriate personnel, manage its operations, and safeguard its business assets and proprietary information.”  He recommended eliminating those provisions in the bill that prohibit employers from inquiring about the existence of social media accounts, as well as those provisions that allow employees or job applicants to sue for violations of the law.  He also requested that the bill include exceptions to permit employers to investigate work-related employee misconduct or an employee’s unauthorized transfer of the employer’s proprietary information or financial data to a personal account.  Finally, the recommendations included language clarifying that an employer is free to access information available in the public domain about current or prospective employees.

A revised version of the bill containing the Governor’s recommendations was sent to the Assembly last week and awaits a vote.

The “Facebook Bill” was previously discussed on the blog in New Jersey Legislation Employers Should WatchUpdate on Legislation to Protect Social Media Access and Passwords, and Laws Protecting Applicant/Employee Social Media Passwords Moving to the Forefront.