EEOC Holds Meeting on Social Media - Highlights Social Media Issues in Hiring Practices

EEOC Holds Meeting on Social Media - Highlights Social Media Issues in Hiring Practices

By: Amanda Cash

On March 12, 2014, the EEOC convened a “listening session” to gather information about the growing use of social media and its impact on EEO issues.   For employers, the EEOC meeting highlighted some pertinent concerns.  In particular, a portion of the discussion concerned how employers should use social media in their hiring practices.

Jonathan Segal, testifying on behalf of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), discussed how more and more employers are using social media in the hiring process, both in publicizing new jobs and in screening potential candidates.  SHRM surveyed its members over several years and found that 77 percent of companies surveyed reported in 2013 that they used social networking sites to recruit candidates, up from 34 percent in 2008.

However, using social media to screen candidates may allow an employer to learn about a candidate’s protected characteristics, which could potentially lead to claims of discriminatory hiring practices.  During the EEOC’s meeting, Renee Jackson of Nixon Peabody LLP, provided advice for employers using social media during the hiring process.  For employers who conduct a “social media background check,” these employers should consider having a third party, or at least a designated representative who is not involved in the hiring process, screen social media accounts.  Additionally, employers should only screen publicly available information, meaning they should not ask candidates for passwords and user names.

While the EEOC did not indicate its intent to issue guidance on social media in the near future, this meeting suggests that the EEOC may be turning its attention towards social media and its EEO implications.  Employers would be wise to review their social media policies to establish a procedure for the use of social media in the hiring process and ensure that their policies protect against claims of discriminatory hiring practices.  If you have any questions about how to create or revise a social media policy for your workplace, please contact any of the attorneys in our Labor and Employment practice group.

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