Social Media and NJ Employment Law

social media in the workplaceAs previously discussed, in the absence of a written employment agreement, New Jersey employers generally have the right to terminate an employee for any reason. New Jersey follows an “at-will” employment relationship. This general rule applies to social media; employers can discipline and terminate an employee under current NJ social laws and case law. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.

What Employers Cannot Do

New Jersey prohibits employers from requiring or requesting current or prospective employees to provide their username, password, or other means of accessing their social media “personal accounts” such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. A personal account is an account that the employee or applicant uses exclusively for personal communications unrelated to his employment. This law does not explicitly address accounts created by or used by employees to the employer’s business or how the statute applies to personal accounts used for both personal and business purposes. Its probable there is limited or no exemption from disclosure to the employer with a hybrid social media personal account.

Employers are also prohibited from:

  • Requiring individuals to waive their rights under the Social Media Act as a condition of either applying for employment or receiving a job offer. An agreement to waive any right or protection under the Social Media Act is unenforceable. (N.J.S.A. 34:6B-7.)
  • Retaliating or discriminating against individuals who exercise their rights under the Act (N.J.S.A. 34:6B-8).

What Employers Can Do

The NJ Social Media Act does not:

  • Prohibit employers from accessing or using information about a current or prospective employee obtained in the public domain (N.J.S.A. 34:6B-10(d)).
  • Restrict an employee’s access, viewing and action in response to social media accounts created, maintained, used, or accessed by a current or prospective employee for purposes related to the employer’s business (N.J.S.A. 34:6B-5).
  • Prohibit employers who have received specific information about the employee’s use of employer’s social media account from accessing information to investigate:
    • a violation of law;
    • employee misconduct; or
    • the improper transfer of confidential information or financial data.

Additionally, the statute does not prohibit employers from viewing, accessing, or utilizing information about a current or prospect employee that can be obtained in the public domain.

If a social media post by an employee does not involve protected activities such as discussing wages, organizing a union, reporting an unlawful employment act or a public interest related issue, or reporting workplace discrimination of all kinds, an employer may still have the right to terminate the employee. New Jersey does have laws in place that read as if they protect employees’ rights to free speech, but these protections generally (I believe almost always) seem not to apply to social media posts made outside of work hours and on personal accounts, employers have become in many cases the social media police. Amazing but true.

What criteria is applied to determine if a social media posting is protected or not? The answer is that each case is unique, and outcomes will depend on such factors as the words used in the comment, the employer’s social media policy (if any), and any possible employment contracts in place. Additionally, certain industries regulated by federal or state laws may have additional restrictions on social media usage that could impact an employee’s job security.

Employers may not again, however, retaliate against an employee or applicant for refusing to provide usernames and passwords.

Employees beware!!! Accessing your social media accounts on your employer’s internet and/or computer may open you up to discipline and/or termination of employment. In these times of restricted free speech in corporate America, especially with government employers, extreme caution is recommended, especially if you give your employer access to your private account information. Be especially careful (to the point of self-censure) before you post any opinions, photographs, and even reposted articles from sources deemed to be conservative, liberal, or extreme. Employers in states like New Jersey can and have fired employees because of the personal opinions offered outside of the workplace.

Dealing with an issue involving a threatened or effectuated office search that impacts you, then please contact Fredrick P. Niemann toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or e-mail him at He welcomes your inquiry and you will find him and his staff easy to talk to.

Fredrick P. Niemann Esq.