Wisconsin Enacted the Wisconsin Social Media Protection Act

On April 9, 2014, Wisconsin enacted the Wisconsin Social Media Protection Act. The Act protects employees by restricting employer’s access to individual’s social Computer Keyboard shutterstock_127894739media information:

  1. No employer may request or require an employee or applicant for employment, as a condition of employment, to disclose access information for his or her personal Internet account or to otherwise demand access or allow observation of that account.
  2. No employer may discharge or discriminate against an employee for refusing to disclose access information or observation of the employee’s personal Internet account.
  3. No employer may refuse to hire an applicant for employment because the applicant refused to disclose access information for, grant access to or allow observation of the applicant’s personal Internet account.

There are, however, exceptions to the above restrictions. An employer is not prohibited from the following:

  1. Requesting or requiring an employee to disclose access information to gain access to or operate an electronic communications device supplied or paid for in whole or in part by the employer.
  2. Requesting or requiring an employee to disclose access information to gain access to or operate an electronic communications device obtained by virtue of the employee’s employment relationship with the employer or used for the employer’s business purposes.
  3. Discharging or disciplining an employee for transferring the employer’s proprietary or confidential information or financial data to the employee’s personal Internet account without the employer’s authorization.
  4. Restricting or prohibiting an employee’s access to certain Internet sites while using an electronic communications device supplied or paid for in whole or in part by the employer or while using the employer’s network or other resources.
  5. Conducting an investigation of any alleged unauthorized transfer of the employer’s confidential information to the employee’s personal Internet account.
  6. Prohibiting an employee’s access to certain Internet sites while that employee is using a device supplied or paid for in whole or in part by the employer or while using the employer’s network or other resources.
  7. Viewing, accessing or using information about an employee or applicant that can be obtained without access information or that is available in the public domain.

The Social Media Protection Act makes it illegal to require an employee, job applicant or student to turn over his or her user names and passwords. It does not apply to public posts such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other public websites. The law is an attempt to balance privacy concerns related to social media with the needs of the employers to monitor employee’s work-related Internet activity.

Employers requesting additional information should contact Attorney Dan Dineen at Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C.’s West Bend Office, 246 South 5th Avenue, West Bend, Wisconsin, 262-338-8874.