Monday, August 8, 2016

Illinois Amends Law Regarding Employee Social Media and Other Online Activities

Authored by Julie Tappendorf and originally posted on Ancel Glink's Municipal Minute blog where readers can keep up to date on a broad spectrum of local governmental issues.

The Illinois General Assembly just approved P.A. 99-610, amending the "Freedom from Location Surveillance Act" to expand employee privacy rights in online activities. The following is a summary of the major provisions of this new law, which takes effect January 1, 2017. 

The new law makes it unlawful for an employer or prospective employer to do the following:

1. Request, require, or coerce an employee or applicant to:
  • provide a username and password to any personal online account;
  • access a personal online account in the employer's presence; 
  • invite the employer to join a group affiliated with a personal online account; or
  • join an online account established by the employer or add the employer to the employee's or applicant's list of contacts (e.g., "friends") to access the personal online account.
2.  Discharge, discipline, discriminate against, retaliate against, or penalize an employee for any of the above activities or for filing a complaint alleging a violation.

3. Fail or refuse to hire an applicant for any of the above activities.

The law contains certain exemptions to these prohibitions, including the ability of employers to obtain information about an employee or applicant available in the public domain.  

The law also allows employers to request that an employee share specific content that has been reported to the employer in connection with an investigation and to ensure compliance with laws and policies.

Finally, the law did not eliminate the authority of employers to adopt and enforce workplace policies regarding use of the employer's electronic equipment and to monitor employee use of employer's equipment.

Employers may need to review and modify any internal personnel policies that conflict with these new requirements before the law takes effect on January 1st of next year.