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Oregon to Employers: No, You Can’t Make Workers Have a Facebook Account

Technology moves faster than law. As a result, the era of social media has been a tricky one for workers' rights. Various state and federal courts have settled questions about whether employers can ask their employees for access to their accounts and whether complaining about work on social networks counts as collective bargaining. The latest frontier in social media-related employment law: mandating that workers maintain social media accounts in the first place.

Technology moves faster than law. As a result, the era of social media has been a tricky one for workers’ rights. Various state and federal courts have settled questions about whether employers can ask their employees for access to their accounts and whether complaining about work on social networks counts as collective bargaining. The latest frontier in social media-related employment law: mandating that workers maintain social media accounts in the first place.

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On June 2, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill that would prohibit employers in that state from requiring workers to have social media accounts. The bill, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2016, was sponsored by Sen. Brian Boquist (R).

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“Sen. Boquist’s wife, Peggy Boquist, testified in February before the Senate Committee on Workforce, saying a sporting goods store declined to interview one of her friends, a Navy veteran, because he wouldn’t agree to open a Facebook account,” writes Michael Loatman at Bloomberg BNA. “Oregon lawmakers are allowed to sponsor bills at the request of a constituent, and Peggy Boquist was listed as the requester for the bill.”

The law will further prohibit employers from requiring workers to allow advertisements on their social media accounts.

Oregon is believed to be the first state to prohibit employers from requiring their workers to maintain social media accounts, but at least one legal expert thinks that the law is unnecessary.

“I work with dozens of employers every year, many of whom are nationwide retailers, on social media issues,” Philip L. Gordon, a shareholder at employment and labor law firm Littler Mendelson PC, tells Bloomberg BNA. “I have not had one ask for advice on whether they could force employees to set up a personal social media account so the employer could effectively push advertising to the employee’s social media friends and connections.”

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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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