New NY Laws Affect Unemployment Transparency, Employer Social Media Access

There are a number of timely employment law and human resources updates for the last quarter of 2023 which are worth noting but do not necessarily warrant separate, independent posts.  Here is a summary of a couple noteworthy new laws in New York.

Taking effect November 13, 2023, New York law will formally require employers to inform employees of their right to file for unemployment benefits at any time they are subject to a permanent or temporary separation from employment, reduction in hours, or any other interruption of continued employment resulting in total or partial unemployment.  Notice must be provided in a form approved by the New York State Department of Labor.

Governor Kathy Hochul also signed a bill into law prohibiting employers from requesting, requiring, or coercing any employee or job applicant: (i) to disclose his or her user name and password for personal social media accounts; (ii) to access the employee’s or applicant’s personal social media accounts in the presence of an employer; or (iii) to reproduce any photographs, videos or other information within an employee’s or applicant’s personal social media accounts.  Protected social media accounts include any accounts accessible through electronic communications devices including computers, telephones and personal digital assistants.

This new law prohibits employers from retaliating against or refusing to hire any employee or applicant for refusing to give access to his or her personal social media accounts.

There is a significant exception in the law allowing employers to access social media accounts provided by the employer or used for the employer’s business purposes.  An employer can also access an account when that employer pays for the account.  Finally, employers can prohibit employees from using certain websites when accessed on the employer’s network or electronic communications devices.  In all of these instances, the employer can rely upon the exception as long as it gives prior notice of its intention to reserve the right of access.  Significantly, employers still have access to publicly available social media accounts when making hiring or personnel decisions.

This law takes effect in March of 2024.

If you are an employer impacted by either of the above new laws, be sure to consult with your legal counsel and take steps to make sure your company practices and policies are in compliance.