Wisconsin passes Social Media Protection Act, affecting state employers

Wisconsin law took a big step forward to keep up with changing technology on Tuesday, April 7, when Gov. Scott Walker signed off on the Wisconsin Social Media Protection Act. Effective today, employers need to be aware of the information they can and cannot seek when it comes to social media.

The Wisconsin Social Media Protection Act, otherwise known as 2013 Wisconsin Act 208, prohibits employers from requesting or requiring an employee or applicant to disclose social media account login information or allowing observation of a social media account. The final version of the law also contains important exceptions. These exceptions include that an employer may review information that is publicly available, require access to information from devices an employer pays for, and investigate with reasonable cause the alleged transfer of company proprietary or confidential information, among others.

While the Wisconsin Social Media Protection Act followed the trend of some other states to include identical protections for students from educational institution requests, it uniquely also protects tenants from landlord inquiries. Wisconsin’s law, as in other states, came to pass after reports of employers requiring applicants to disclose social media information as part of the interview process. In a strong show of bipartisanship, both sides of the political aisle came together to address this concern.

I was offered the opportunity to attend a bill signing day with Governor Walker for this law. I kept in close contact with the Senate Majority Leader’s staff during the early stages of the legislative process and offered feedback on the bill language. Once the Wisconsin Social Media Protection Act was set for signature, I was invited to attend the private bill signing at the Governor’s office. It was a terrific opportunity, for which I am grateful, to meet the sponsors of the legislation and shake the governor’s hand. Tuesday was also a busy day at the Capitol, as I joined key individuals for 60 bills that the Governor signed into law on Tuesday. As an added bonus, I received a pen Governor Walker used to sign the bill into law.

Jesse Dill is an employment law attorney with Walcheske & Luzi, LLC, assisting clients with training, counseling, and litigation. He will be presenting on the Wisconsin Social Media Protection Act at the BizTimes Media BizExpo seminar “Social Media in the Workplace: The Wisconsin Social Media Protection Act and More” on May 21 at Potawatomi Bingo Casino.

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