It’s tempting and easy to take a job applicant’s data and quickly type in a search in social media programs, such as Facebook and Instagram. Employers can quickly get inside applicant’s uncensored heads and learn more about potential applicants. But is this type of screening legal?
There are two sides to this controversial topic.
Social media searches can be valuable due-diligence tools for pre-employment background screenings. Employers can verify if candidates deliver the same information online about previous employment, degrees, schools attended, etc. Candidates can also expose potential criminal activities, hate speech or derogatory comments about current or past employers. However, basing employment on social media that may not even be accurate has legal risks.
There is a lot of information available on social media, including a candidate’s race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability, age and citizenship status. If you don’t hire a candidate and have knowledge of information that relates to one of these protected statuses, your company could find itself in very hot water.
Screening candidates based on these attributes is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and carries substantial penalties for employers.
If your company wants to use social media to help prescreen potential applicants, there are some general rules to follow. As always, before instituting any policies or changes regarding checking social media sites, it is best to speak with an attorney or in-house legal counsel.
- Get consent from job applicants before searching or viewing any social media sites. This should be done only after a job offer is extended to avoid any potential issues that may arise under Title VII. Extend the offer and say it is contingent upon completion of a social media check.
- Consider establishing standard screening practices to highlight and give a paper trail how hiring decisions are made objectively based only on job qualifications and the job descriptions. If the applicant does not meet the necessary criteria for the position, document this information about why the candidate did not move forward in the interview process.
- Consider using a third party to perform social media checks. This is someone who does not make any hiring decisions and only makes job-related inquiries on sites after an offer has been extended.
Ninja Gig does not provide legal advice, which is why it is important to consult legal professionals about how to efficiently and legally conduct social media searches for potential employees during the pre-screening phase.
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