With the proliferation of social media in today’s society, the courts and law makers are scrambling to define the rules for employees and employers. As a recent New Jersey Law Journal article points out, the new laws appear to favor the privacy of employees and plaintiff’s in lawsuits. Here are some recent developments that employees and plaintiffs in lawsuits should be aware of.
Password Protection Laws
On June 25, 2012, the New Jersey General Assembly passed a new bill that “prohibits an employer from requiring a current or prospective employee to provide or disclose social media login information”, and “prohibits retaliation or discrimination against an individual who complains about or participates in any investigation about violations of the law.” (See full article New Jersey Social Media Law).
As the article points out similar laws such as the Social Networking Protection Act (“SNOPA”) and the Password Protection Act have as been proposed on a federal level. There does not seem to be any indication of what President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney’s positions are on the federal legislation.
The protections against social media abuses by employers and others do not end there, however.
Invasion of Privacy
The New Jersey District Court recently held that a plaintiff could go forward with her invasion of privacy claim against a service corporation that accessed her Facebook page without her permission. (See the full opinion New Jersey District Court opinion on right to privacy). In Ehling v. Monmouth-Ocean Hosp. Serv. Corp., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74558 (D.N.J. May 30, 2012) the plaintiff alleged that the defendants “gained access to [her] Facebook account by having a supervisor summon a MONOC employee, who was also one of the [plaintiff’s] Facebook friends, into an office and coercing, strongarming, and/or threatening the employee into accessing his Facebook account on the work computer in the supervisor’s presence.”
The District Court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss in Ehling because the plaintiff’s allegations stated a plausible claim for invasion of privacy.
As illustrated in this recent article (see full article Friend request is ethics violation) the Office of Attorney Ethics (“OAE”) claims that two attorneys who allegedly told a paralegal in their office to become Facebook friends with the plaintiff in a personal injury case violated Rules of Professional Conduct. Allegedly, after the attorneys gained access to the plaintiff’s Facebook profile they used information on the website to disprove statements made by the plaintiff in his deposition.
As this article points out, a recent Philadelphia Bar Association’s Professional Guidance Committee also held that it would violate the Rules of Professional Conduct for a lawyer to direct a third party to seek to friend a witness whose testimony was helpful to an adverse party.
As advocates for employees the Zeff Law Firm LLC applauds the courts and law makers for taking steps to protect the rights of the often underrepresented employees and plaintiffs. If you feel as though your rights have been violated contact the Zeff Law Firm at 856-778-9700 or simply submit an inquiry on our website.