A new law affecting Louisiana employers went into effect August 1, 2014. It is known as the “Personal Online Account Privacy Protection Act” and is designed to prevent employers from forcing disclosure of passwords and other access information to personal online accounts of employees or prospective employees. Employers are now prohibited from, among other things, requiring an employee or applicant to disclose a user name, password or other information to access personal online accounts; to discharge, discipline or fail to hire for refusing to disclose this information.
It is to be noted that these restrictions apply only to personal online accounts that are not associated with the employer’s business. An employer may require information as to: a device which is paid for or supplied in whole or part by the employer; an account or service provided by the employer because of the relationship between the employee/ applicant and the employer or that is used for business purposes. Employers under certain circumstances may also conduct an investigation involving a personal online account as to compliance with laws or unauthorized transfer of the employer’s business information to that personal account. The new law does not prohibit an employer from accessing or using information that is available in the public domain or that may be obtained without use of passwords . Employers are still free to restrict access to specific websites if the employee is using a device paid for or provided by the employer or while they are using the employers network. Interestingly the law does not provide for specific enforcement or penalty provisions.
Now is a good time also to review policies and procedures to be consistent with this new law and more importantly to specify what actions are permitted in terms of access to online information, access through company networks and employer-provided devices.