LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CN) – The governor of Arkansas signed a law Thursday that gives employers the authority to sue whistleblowers who uncover evidence of abuse and wrongdoing on private property across the state.
The new law, sponsored by Republican State Rep. DeAnn Vaught, makes Arkansas the sixth state to pass legislation that eases the ability of private businesses to sue an employee who “records images or sound occurring within an employer’s commercial property and uses the recording in a manner that damages the employer.”
Under the law signed Thursday by Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a person who knowingly gains access to a nonpublic area of another person’s property – residential or commercial – and engages in unauthorized activities is subject to civil liability for damages sustained by the property owner.
“An act that exceeds a person’s authority to enter a nonpublic area of commercial property includes an employee who knowingly enters a nonpublic area of commercial property for a reason other than a bona fide intent of seeking or holding employment or doing business with the employer and without authorization subsequently,” according to the law.
Civil liberty and animal rights groups like One Green Planet and Mercy for Animals quickly criticized the law.
“MFA is exploring all legal avenues to overturn Arkansas’s dangerous, unconstitutional, and un-American ag-gag law,” Mercy for Animals said in a news release.
In striking down a similar Idaho law in 2015, a federal judge ruled that it violated the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.
The Arkansas bill passed both chambers of the Legislature, 28-3 in the Senate and 77-1 in the House, before becoming law Thursday.