Beginning on October 1, 2023, employees in Montana had new free speech protections. “Free speech” isn’t defined in the law, so employers should assume that it at least includes speech protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The new protections are as follows and apply to employers of all sizes.
First, the law regarding social media privacy in employment has been amended. Now employers are prohibited from taking, or threatening to take, adverse action against an applicant or employee for legal expressions of free speech on their personal social media, unless it violates the employer’s written policy or the terms of an employee’s employment contract.
Second, the state’s unique wrongful discharge law has been amended. It now expressly prohibits employers from terminating an employee solely for their legal expressions of free speech in any forum. However, this protection doesn’t apply to employees in their probationary period.
Effective October 1, 2023, businesses selling consumer genetic testing products or services directly to a consumer residing in Montana, or collecting, using, or analyzing genetic data must:
- Provide the consumer with clear and complete information about the business’s policies and procedures for genetic data collection, use, or disclosure.
- Get a consumer’s initial express consent for the collection, use, or disclosure of their genetic data and its transfer or disclosure to anyone other than the business’s vendors and service providers.
- Develop, implement, and maintain a comprehensive security program to protect a consumer’s genetic data against unauthorized access, use, or disclosure.
The law doesn’t apply to protected health information collected by a covered entity, as defined by federal law, if the consumer’s separate, informed consent is obtained and when the business only uses genetic samples for research as allowed under federal law.