To build a strong business, you need strong people. Social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook are fast and inexpensive ways to vet candidates who will be an asset to your team.
However, the use of these sources can be a legal landmine for human resource departments uninformed of state and federal legislation prohibiting internet-based employee discrimination.
State and federal agencies that monitor anti-discrimination claims are growing more alert to social media profiling during the hiring process. Information such as age, ethnicity, gender, disability, national origin, or religion cannot be used to eliminate a candidate.
So is there a practical way to use social media to avoid legal implications and still use it in the hiring process?
Some companies have turned to outside agencies in an effort to avoid employment related legal traps. The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, tightly regulates an employer’s use of information gathered from internet sources. When gathered from a third party, this information is considered a consumer report and therefore falls under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
A 2013 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (“SHRM”) reports that 77% of businesses social media information in the recruiting process while only 20% use the same information to screen potential candidates, citing concern for legal risks. More surprisingly, 57% of SHRM companies that use social media in recruitment have no in-house policy on using social network sites.
Social media is an effective tool in job recruitment but should be used carefully. There are things your company can do to use the information in a safe, legal manner:
1. Use Channels
For starters, protect your business by using a variety of channels during the recruitment process. Maintaining a wider search pool will protect you from claims of discrimination against candidates with limited access to technology.
2. Build Barriers
Create distinct divisions between the HR team, recruiters and hiring managers. Recruiters should be trained on the legal implications and managers should be protected from the information. Assign a team to screen social media profiles and remove sensitive information before it is passed on.
3. Create a Policy
Protect your company’s assets by creating a policy regarding when social media information is acceptable to use in the hiring process. Limit the use of such information until later in the recruiting process. While you have a right to disqualify a candidate who displays dangerous or illegal conduct on a social media site, use the information at the same time for every candidate.
4. Be Transparent
It is vitally important to stay transparent. If you advertise your company on social media sites, list yourself as an Equal Opportunity Employer. Before accessing information, inform the candidate that an internet search will be conducted. If any disqualifying information is found, inform the candidate and use screenshots of the pages that were used in the decision. Document this information as evidence in the case of a lawsuit. With a clear social media policy in place, there is no reason to avoid internet searches in the hiring process.Kymeshia Morris Contributor and Legal Expert About: Kymeshia Morris