Effective January 1, 2015, Tennessee employers, including government entities, will be prohibited from requesting or requiring access to the private social networking or online accounts of employees and job applicants under the Volunteer State’s “Employee Online Privacy Act of 2014,” signed by Governor Bill Haslam. Our Tennessee colleagues outline the key provisions of the law, including some of the key exceptions.

The exceptions will be helpful for employers. For example, some of the them permit employers to:

  • request or require a username or password to access an electronic communications device supplied by or paid for wholly or in part by the employer, as well as to access an account or service provided by the employer and obtained by virtue of the employment relationship or used for the employer’s business purposes;
  • monitor, review, access, or block electronic data stored on an electronic communications device supplied by or paid for wholly or in part by the employer, or stored on an employer’s network, in accordance with state and federal law; and
  • View, access, or use information about an employee or applicant that can be obtained without violating the prohibited conduct or information that is available in the public domain.

There are other exceptions in the Tennessee law, but not all of the same exceptions exist in the laws enacted in the other states across the country, such as Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and more recently in Wisconsin. Employers will need to be careful in navigating these laws nationwide. At the same time, as more employers explore BYOD and other monitoring technologies, including spyware and keylogging, they will need to consider the risks those practices and technologies may present under statutes like the one in Tennessee.