Facebook and other social media sites became off limits to employers in Montana as of April 23, 2015 when House Bill 343 was signed into law by the Governor. The bill prohibits employers from making applicants for employment, or employees, provide information from their social media sites, or provide their logon information for those sites. It also prohibits employers from firing, disciplining, or retaliating against someone who refuses to obey a request for the information.
The prohibitions do not apply to employer-owned or -provided electronic devices. Employers may still require an employee to provide logon information for company-owned cell phones, computers, and tablets, or to access employer-provided software or e-mail accounts.
There are a few exceptions to the law for the following situations:
- The employer has specific information that an employee has engaged in work-related misconduct or criminal defamation;
- The employer has specific information about an employee’s unauthorized sharing of the employer’s proprietary information;
- An employer is required to ensure compliance with federal regulatory requirements; or
- When an investigation is under way and social media information is needed to make a factual determination.
If an employer violates the new law, it is subject to claims in small claims court from employees or applicants for a period of up to one year. Damages are limited to $500 or actual damages up to $7,000, plus legal costs.
If your employer or a prospective employer has demanded access to your social media content, you should speak with an experienced employment lawyer. The attorneys at Tipp & Buley have over 50 years of experience in Missoula and Western Montana. We are dedicated to helping our clients enjoy all of their employee rights in the workplace. Please visit us today online or call 406-389-4215 to make an appointment.