With the amount of qualified talent available today, it makes sense that employers would use all tools at their disposal to vet candidates and narrow down their options in the most cost effective and efficient way as possible. Oftentimes, this means conducting a brief online search of qualified applicants. While there is no harm in perusing a candidate’s Facebook or LinkedIn profile for information regarding a person’s character, experience, and background, such an inspection could yield information that a candidate would otherwise have kept hidden from a prospective employer. Depending on how certain information is used, it could put the employer at risk of a discrimination lawsuit.

At Cloud Willis & Ellis, we help business owners remain in compliance with the strict rules and regulations governing businesses at both the state and federal levels. If you are worried that one or more of your hiring practices may get you into trouble, schedule a consultation with a member of our team today to discuss your concerns and possible solutions.

Searching Social Media is Not Illegal – But How You Use Certain Information May Be 

It is the general consensus that if a person puts information on social media, said information is free game for whoever views it to make what they will of it. However, employers are governed by strict rules that prevent them from making hiring, firing, promotion, and demotion decisions based on a person’s race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, pregnancy, physical or mental disabilities, genetics, political stance, or veteran/military status, just to name a few protected categories. Unfortunately for employers, even just a cursory glance can reveal most of this information. If the employer is not careful, he or she may unwittingly use it to aid in the hiring decision. If a candidate suspects or finds out that the employer perused his or her Facebook profile prior to making the final hiring decision, said candidate can sue for discrimination.

Though it is a reach to assume that the employer used information gleaned from social media to aid in the hiring decision, if that same employer did not use the same “screening processes” for all candidates, he or she may again be at risk for a discrimination claim. If an employer does look to social media to gain more information on an applicant, that employer needs to review the profiles of all applicants.

A Majority of Employers Choose to Protect Themselves By Steering Clear of Social Media 

Though social media has certainly pervaded most aspects of society, a 2013 study reveals that many employers realize the risk of using social media as a vetting tool and have abandoned the tactic entirely. According to the report, only 22 percent of respondents said they continued to use social media to vet candidates, while 74 percent said they were concerned with legal risks or discovering information about protected characteristics when perusing candidates’ social media profiles—the exact issues we discussed above. Though the report is from five years ago, the concerns remain the same.

You may not realize it, but your hiring practices may be setting you up for a lawsuit. You can prevent a lawsuit by working with a Alabama corporate law attorney who can help you revise your hiring practices and implement procedures that are in compliance with state and federal government hiring laws. Contact the office of Cloud Willis & Ellis, LLC today to get started.