Tennessee Passes Employer Privacy Act S.B. 1808

These new laws indicate a growing trend that restricts employers from accessing applicant’s and employee’s personal online content.

In April 2014, Wisconsin became the 13th state to adopt a social media password protection law and subsequently, Tennessee has signed similar legislation.

This Tennessee law, which took effect on New Year’s Day 2015, is called the Employee Online Privacy Act of 2014 (S.B. 1808) and contains many similar prohibitions found in similar state laws but has some restrictions that even small employers must comply with.

This new legislation commonly prohibits an employer from requesting applicants or employees disclose their passwords for personal internet accounts.

But TN law makes some finer amendments including prohibiting an employer from requiring that applicants or employees “add the employer to the employee’s or applicant’s list of contacts associated with a personal internet account.”

Employers are also prohibited from requiring applicants and employees to “permit the employer to observe their restricted online content after they have access an online account.”

The full bill can be obtained here: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/108/Bill/SB1808.pdf

What the legislation does not prohibit is asking applicants to change their privacy settings so an employer can have permission to access a social media account.

Philip Gordon of Mondaq reports that, “In addition, the law broadly prohibits employers from taking any adverse action against employees, failing to hire applicants, or otherwise penalizing an employee or applicant for not permitting access to their personal online account in a manner prohibited by the statute.”

As of now, it is unclear how the new Employer Privacy Act laws will be enforced.