Category Archives: Freedom in the Workplace

This category examines employee grooming and dress in the workplace, sexual harassment, privacy at the workplace, freedom of expression, regulation of off-work activity, and much more.

California Employers Cannot Demand Your Social Media Passwords

Giving Facebook Passwords to Boss Illegal in California

Should your boss be able to access your Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn page?  What if he demands that you give him your password to such sites as a condition of employment? Believe it or not, many employers in California are demanding that their employees give them access to their social media platforms. If the employee doesn’t comply the employer will show them the door. Is this legal? Not anymore. On September 27 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown just signed into law a bill passed in the California legislature:

Assembly Bill 1844 by Nora Campos (D-San Jose) prohibits employers from demanding user names, passwords or any other information related to social media accounts from employees and job applicants. Employers are banned from discharging or disciplining employees who refuse to divulge such information under the terms of the bill. However, this restriction does not apply to passwords or other information used to access employer-issued electronic devices. The bill further stipulates that nothing in its language is intended to infringe on employers’ existing rights and obligations to investigate workplace misconduct…. Proponents of Assembly Bill 1844 say this is a common-sense measure that will bring clarity to a murky area of employment law and stop business practices that impede employment.

I predict that the litigation under this new law will surround whether or not the employer is investigating workplace misconduct. When is an employer investigating? What are they investigating? Is there a formal process for this? California courts will have to settle all of these questions.

Moreover, this bill only applies to California. What about the rest of the country? The Password Protection Act of 2012 is a federal bill that is a making its way through the House of Representatives. In addition to forbidding employers from requesting passwords, it would prohibit employers from discriminating or retaliating against a prospective or current employee based on her refusal to provide access to personal accounts.


Branigan Robertson is a California employment lawyer who exclusively represents employees in workplace disputes. He focuses his practice on sexual harassment, wage & hour, wrongful termination, and retaliation. Visit his website at or call his office at 949.667.3025.

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Filed under Company Property, Defamation, Freedom in the Workplace, Human Resources, Privacy at Work Rights, Social Media

Breastfeeding in the Workplace Example – American University Professor Adrienne Pine

I’ve already written an entire post on California’s laws on breastfeeding in the workplace. But I just came across this CNN article and had to share it. Although the incident did not take place in Orange County, or even California for that matter, it is still worth a read.

Adrienne Pine, an American University professor in Washington D.C., noticed that her infant child was running a fever. It was Ms. Pine’s first day teaching for the semester. So she didn’t want to miss class. But, as many working mom’s know, couldn’t drop her child off at daycare because of the fever. Daycare generally refuses sick babies because of the potential of spreading the disease (if one exists).

So, what is a working woman to do? She brought her baby to class. But the baby got fussy and hungry and you can guess what happened next:

after her daughter started fussing, the professor began nursing — in front of 40 students — to get her to stop.

A firestorm erupted afterwards. Students complained on Twitter and Ms. Pine was suddenly thrust into a national debate. Should women be allowed to breastfeed at work? Should they be afforded a private place to use a breast pump? Should employers provide emergency daycare? These are all very important questions for working women across America.


Branigan Robertson is a California employment lawyer who exclusively represents employees in workplace disputes. He focuses his practice on sexual harassment, wage & hour, wrongful termination, and retaliation. Visit his website at or call his office at 949.667.3025.

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Filed under Discrimination, Family & Medical Leave, FMLA - Family & Medical Leave Act, Maternity Leave, Pregnancy, Privacy at Work Rights, Sex Discrimination

Facebooking About “Naked Twister” With Co-workers Is Not a Good Idea if You’re Suing for Sexual Harassment

Naked Twister, Sexual Harassment, Facebook, LawsuitTennessee is a strange place. Earlier this year a very interesting decision was handed down by a Tennessee Federal District Court, Targonksi v. City of Oak Ridge. The case is a typical sexual harassment case by a female police officer against her supervisor. The female plaintiff claimed that she was subjected to a ‘hostile work environment’ because her supervisor was allegedly “spreading sexual rumors” about her. According to Plaintiff, her supervisor told her that he thought she was “a lesbian and I wanted to be part of” an orgy the supervisor was trying to coordinate.

Plaintiff testified at her deposition, “I’m a Christian and I strive really hard to be a moral person. So for someone to start thinking of me as someone who has orgy parties at my house while my son is home, that’s severely humiliating to me.” Plaintiff further testified that she would never “go out and talk to people about” such things, even in a joking manner.

Curiously, however, a few months after the sexual rumors were allegedly spread, she Facebooked about her desire for a female friend to join her “naked in the hot tub.” Moreover, she discussed “naked Twister” during a party at a cabin in the woods. Even more damming, she talked about female orgies involving herself, another female, and others, to be filmed by her very own husband.

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Filed under Freedom in the Workplace, Harassment, Human Resources, Privacy at Work Rights, Relationships, Sexual Harassment, Social Media

Update: Relationships in the Workplace – Dunder Mifflin Style

I know about a hundred people who have had relationships within their workplace.  I’m sure you know a hundred more.  Well, The Office had an entire episode about interoffice relationships.  Joshua Drexler at the ‘That’s what she said’ blog (one of my favorites) has a great post on the subject.


After posting the above link I found another one worth mentioning.  Apparently, the Vault does an annual ‘office romance’ survey.   Employers and employees in will find this interesting.  A few of the highlights are:

  • 41% of employees in the general population claim to have never participated in an office romance.
  • 40% of employees report “avoiding or curtailing a potential romance that they would have otherwise pursued specifically to avoid an office romance.”
  • Among those who have engaged in an office romance, 26% have dated a subordinate, and 18% have dated their boss.

These percentages were worse than I expected, but not surprising.  You may find it humorous to note that lawyers are particularly bad when it comes to romance in the office.  As opposed to 41% in the general population, 36% of lawyers have “never participated in an office romance.”  I bet that number changes when you look specifically at labor and employment attorneys.  They would know better.  But that’s just my hunch.


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Filed under Freedom in the Workplace, Harassment, Relationships, Sex Discrimination, Sexual Harassment

An Employee Who Used Her Company Computer to Email Her Attorney About Suing Her Company Loses Big Time

On January 13, 2011, the California Supreme Court decided Holmes v. Petrovich Development Co.  In the case, plaintiff Gina Holmes sued her former employer for sexual harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, violation of the right to privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. However, before ever initiating suit, she used her company-provided computer to send emails to her attorney regarding possible legal action against that very same company employing her.

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Filed under Company Property, Family & Medical Leave, FMLA - Family & Medical Leave Act, Human Resources, Privacy at Work Rights, Sex Discrimination