Michigan Prohibits Employer Access to Personal Internet, Social Media Accounts

January 7, 2013

In late December, Gov. Snyder signed into law the "Internet Privacy Protection Act," HB 5523 (Rep. Nesbitt), which made Michigan the fourth state to prohibit employers from accessing passwords to the personal internet accounts of employees and job applicants, including personal email, Facebook and Twitter. 

Public Act 478 of 2012, which became effective immediately, prohibits employers from requesting an employee or applicant for employment to grant him or her access to personal internet accounts, including social media sites. Under the law, employers are prohibited from discharging, disciplining, failing to hire, or otherwise penalizing an employee or applicant for failure to grant access or allow observation of an account.

The new law permits an employer to access electronic devices paid for by the employer; access accounts provided by the employer or used for the employer's business purposes; discipline or discharge an employee for transferring the employer's proprietary or confidential information or financial data to an employee's personal internet account without the employer's authorization; and/or conduct investigations regarding activity on an employee's personal internet account to ensure compliance with applicable laws or prohibitions against work-related misconduct.

Any person who violates the Act is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 plus reasonable attorney fees and court costs. Sixty days before filing an action, the individual must make a written demand for not more than $1,000 to the person violating the Act. However, an employer’s compliance with federal or state law is an affirmative defense to an action.

Please contact Wendy Block at the Michigan Chamber of Commerce with any questions at 517/371-7678 or wblock@michamber.com.