Amelia Herring

Social Media Screening – Beware!

Social Media Screening – Beware!
Amelia Herring
There's a significant legislative movement to restrict the use of social media screening during the hiring process.

Social media has become much more than just a way for people to connect with old friends and colleagues.

Social media is now a resource for businesses to market and promote themselves. This newer technology is also becoming a tool for recruitment and selection strategies. Social media platforms enable companies to expand their networks and applicant pools and increase the quantity and quality of applicants and hires.

While there are many benefits that come with social media as a recruitment tool, there are many legal risks associated with using social media for researching a candidate. If an employer chooses to use social media as a screening tool, they need to be careful they are complying with relevant laws that apply to screening job applicants.

Unintentional Discrimination

Federal laws protect people from being discriminated against on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, pregnancy, disability, age and more depending upon the state in which the discrimination takes place.

If an employer utilizes information revealed via social media relating to an applicant’s protected subgroup status, then it is likely to open itself up to successful claims of unlawful discrimination.

To avoid litigation, employers need to create policies that ensure hiring managers and recruiters are focusing on information that is related to the job.

Legislative Trends

There is a significant legislative movement at the state and federal levels to restrict the use of social media screening to evaluate job applicants and employees. Specifically, California AB 1844, which became law on January 1. 2013, prohibits employers from requiring or requesting an applicant or employee to disclose a username or password for the purpose of accessing any personal social media. According to the enacted initiative, social media is defined as “an electronic service or account, or electronic content, including but not limited to videos, still photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant or text messages, e-mail, on-line services or accounts, or Internet Web site profiles or locations.”

California was one of four states in 2012 to pass legislation regarding the use of social media in the employment domain—Maryland, Illinois and Michigan were the other states.  In 2013, Utah and New Mexico enacted similar legislative measures with the Utah law taking effect on May 14 and the New Mexico statute becoming effective on June 14. Similar bills have also been introduced in over two dozen states. At the federal level, in 2012 legislators introduced the Social Networking Online Protection Act (“SNOPA”) to address perceived problems in this area.

For more information on legislation surrounding social media recruiting, check out the white paper, “The Legal Implications of Using Social Media for Recruitment and Selection.”

Do you use social media to recruit or screen applicants?

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