The Internet has become a major tool being used by company recruiters. However, companies using social media in hiring need to be fully aware of some the legal problems than can arise when using this media improperly. In the process of looking for potential employees that may meet your qualifications you may see things in the profile of an applicant which is totally unrelated to your company job requirements.
You may not understand why that would be a problem. After all didn’t they post this information for everyone to see? In addition, you may have heard about a company that requests an applicant’s password to Facebook. Let me advise all business owners large and small against this practice. Sure it is important to check references and background. However, the use of social media opens new challenges in the employment area.
A person’s Facebook account could have all types of information including age, heath status, relationship status, and many other things that have no bearing on job suitability. I am not suggesting that an employer would knowingly eliminate a candidate for illegal reasons. But here is the problem. Even if you don’t make a hiring decision or other employment decision based in this type of personal information you could still cause a legal problem for you or your company.
Here is how an unintended consequence could occur. Let’s say, for example, that you legitimately discipline or terminate an employee for cause. At a later date that employee could claim that you did it because you knew that he was ill or because of something protected under law which he has publicly posted on his Facebook page. Companies that use Facebook or other social media protect themselves by setting up a firewall. They employ a third party to check for certain information that is relevant to the job. The hiring manager gets that information only but never sees anything else.
Now let’s turn to the business owner or manager on Facebook or other social media. First of all, as a manager using social media you should not friend your employees for the very same reasons mentioned above. Secondly, be very careful about what you post on your Facebook page. Highly controversial and opinionated posts can come back to haunt you. Your rants could be used against you by that employee that you disciplined or terminated.
In fact this is great advice to all business owners, even those with no employees. You may have a personal and business page but we all know that nothing is private on the Internet. Your behavior on the Internet affects your reputation and your brand.