Connecticut Enacts Law Prohibiting Employers from Accessing Employee Online Accounts

By C. Scott Schwefel

On May 19, 2015, Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed into law an act prohibiting employers from requesting or requiring employees or job applicants to: (1) provide their user name and password, or any other means of access, to an employee’s personal online account; (2) access an online account in the employer’s presence; or (3) invite, or accept an invitation from, the employer to join a group affiliated with any personal online account of the employee or applicant.

The act, titled “An Act Concerning Employee Online Privacy” (the “Act”), is effective October 1, 2015 and, generally, applies to private and public employers of any size, including the state and municipalities. The Act will not apply to any state or municipal law enforcement agency conducting a pre-employment investigation of law enforcement personnel.

The Act covers any online account that is used by an employee or job applicant exclusively for personal purposes and unrelated to any business purpose of such employee’s or applicant’s employer or prospective employer, including, but not limited to, email, social media and retail-based internet web sites.
The Act provides an exception for investigations conducted by employers for the purpose of ensuring compliance with applicable state or federal laws, regulatory requirements or prohibitions against work-related employee misconduct. The Act also provides an exception for workplace investigations related to an employee’s or applicant’s unauthorized transfer of the employer’s proprietary information, confidential information or financial data to or from a personal online account.

Fines for violations of the Act range from $25 for violations concerning job applicants and $500 for violations concerning employees, and can increase to $500 and $1,000 for continuing or repeat violations.

If you would like more information regarding the Act, please contact Scott Schwefel at (860) 606-1712. You may also contact the Shipman Shaiken & Schwefel, LLC attorney with whom you usually work to discuss a comprehensive approach for complying with state and federal laws and regulations governing your workplace.