Louisiana Passes Personal Online Account Privacy Protection Act

Written By Thomas Ahearn

Blogs about PrivacyLouisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has signed House Bill 340 (HB 340), the Personal Online Account Privacy Protection Act into law to prohibit employers in the state from requesting or requiring access to the personal online accounts of job applicants or employees effective immediately. The full text of HB 340, the Personal Online Account Privacy Protection Act is available at http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=908152&n=HB340 Act.

Introduced by Representative Edward “Ted” James (D-District 101), the Personal Online Account Privacy Protection Act prevents an employer from doing the following:

  • Request or require an employee or applicant for employment to disclose any username, password, or other authentication information that allows access to the employee’s or applicant’s personal online account.
  • Discharge, discipline, fail to hire, or otherwise penalize or threaten to penalize an employee or applicant for employment for failure to disclose any information that allows access to the employee’s or applicant’s personal online account.

However, HB 340 does not prohibit an employer from doing the following:

  • Requesting or requiring an employee or applicant for employment to disclose any username, password, or other authentication information to the employer to gain access to or operate any of the following: (a) An electronic communications device paid for or supplied in whole or in part by the employer. (b) An account or service provided by the employer, obtained by virtue of the employee’s or applicant’s relationship with the employer, or used for the employer’s business purposes.
  • Disciplining or discharging an employee for transferring the employer’s proprietary or confidential information or financial data to an employee’s personal online account without the employer’s authorization.
  • Conducting an investigation or requiring an employee or applicant to cooperate in an investigation in any of the following circumstances: (a) If there is specific information about activity on the employee’s personal online account, for the purpose of ensuring compliance with applicable laws, regulatory requirements, or prohibitions against work-related employee misconduct. (b) If the employer has specific information about an unauthorized transfer of the employer’s proprietary information, confidential information, or financial data to an employee’s or applicant’s personal online account.
  • Conducting an investigation or requiring an employee or applicant to cooperate in an investigation as specified in this Subsection, including requiring the employee or applicant to share the content that has been reported in order to make a factual determination, without obtaining the username and password to the employee’s or applicant’s personal online account.
  • Restricting or prohibiting an employee’s or applicant’s access to certain websites while using an electronic communications device paid for or supplied in whole or in part by the employer or while using an employer’s network or resources, in accordance with state and federal law.

The Personal Online Account Privacy Protection Act also applies to educational institutions and prohibits them from requesting or requiring the same information from students or prospective students. With the passing of HB 340, Louisiana joins 11 other states – Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin – that have already passed similar online privacy protection legislation.

Other state lawmakers have introduced privacy legislation to prevent employers from requesting passwords to personal Internet accounts to get or keep a job. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) website includes a list of legislation regarding Employer Access to Social Media Usernames and Passwords at http://www.ncsl.org/research/telecommunications-and-information-technology/employer-access-to-social-media-passwords-2013.

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