We’ve all seen the news headlines about employees who’ve damaged their employers’ reputations with inflammatory posts on social media. With that in mind, it seems prudent to include some social media screening in your background check for employment. But social media screening done on your own is actually full of pitfalls that can get you in trouble with EEOC and FCRA laws and regulations faster than you can say, “Facebook.” While there’s nothing strictly illegal about snooping around on social media, this kind of screening practice is filled with landmines. Here’s why:
Once You See it, You Can’t Unsee It
One of the big issues surrounding social media screening is discrimination. Employers are not allowed to discriminate based on any of the following:
- Pregnancy status
- Sexual orientation
- Marital status
If you see a post online about a job applicant stating she’s pregnant and you choose not to hire her, even if it’s for another valid reason, it can be difficult to prove that you didn’t discriminate. Once you see it, it’s impossible to unsee it, and it’s very hard not to factor what you’ve seen into your hiring decisions.
What’s the Solution?
Hiring an objective third-party screening agency protects you from making any potentially discriminatory decisions. The screening agency reviews the candidate’s profile, looks for specific, well-defined red flags, and passes that info alone along to you.
In addition to using a professional accredited screening agency to conduct social media screens, you can also adopt the following best practices:
- Keep your policies up to date. Social media is a constantly changing landscape, and your policy needs to reflect the latest information.
- Determine where social media fits in your process. Just as you have made careful determinations about which screenings make sense for which positions, you must carefully consider where, when, and why social media screens make sense in your organization.
- Social media screening should be one component of a comprehensive screening policy that includes drug testing, criminal records check, motor vehicle reports as applicable, reference checks, and more. Only use social media along with other background screening processes. Never rely on a social media screen alone to make hiring decisions.
- Keep your legal team involved. This is an area of law that keeps changing. Your legal team, including the compliance experts at your screening agency, will help keep you abreast of the latest.
Social media screening can be a useful part of wise background check processes when done with the help of a professional and in compliance with all the latest laws.