Earlier this month, legislators in Montana gave final approval to H.B. 342 which would limit an employer’s ability to access the personal social media accounts of applicants and employees.  The bill now goes to Governor Steve Bullock’s (D) office for consideration.

If signed, Montana would join become the most recent state to join the list of 19 states which limit an employer’s access to personal social media accounts.  A similar bill was signed earlier this year in Virginia.  Like many of the other laws which have been passed on this issue, the Montana bill would prohibit:

  • An employer from requiring prospective or current employees from sharing their login credentials;
  • Requiring an individual to access the account in a supervisor’s presence;
  • Requiring any communications which the individual made through their personal account to be turned over; and
  • Companies from retaliating against applicants of employees for their refusal to disclose their personal social media information.

Notably, and unlike many of the laws already in place in other states, the proposed Montana law would permit employers to request login credentials when the employer has specific information about  the employee’s activity that indicates work-related employee misconduct, criminal defamation or the unauthorized transfer by the employee of the employer’s proprietary or confidential information, trade secrets, financial data.  Similarly, employees are required to provide login credentials if the required to ensure the employer is complying with federal laws, federal regulations or the rules of a self-regulatory organization or if an investigation is underway and the information from the employee is necessary to make a factual determination in the investigation.

As previously mentioned, it is anticipated that similar legislation will continue to be introduced throughout 2015 and into the future.