While it has become common practice in the business world to “Google” or perform a social media search on job applicants, actually “Friending” a job applicant could get you or your business into trouble.
As they say, “you can’t un-ring a bell!” Refusing to hire an applicant because of information discovered on their social media site could expose you and your business to potential liability on a number of levels. Caution and good sense should always be exercised when including a social media search as part of the on-boarding process as there is inherent risk even if you don’t “Friend” the applicant.
Various Federal (e.g., Title VII) and State laws (e.g., the Fair Employment & Housing Act (FEHA)) make it unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire an applicant due to a “protected classification” which could easily be disclosed on social media.
Protected Classifications include: Age, Race, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Physical and Mental Disability Status, Marital Status, Military Status, National Origin, Religion, Veteran Status, Pregnancy, etc.
Content options on social media make it possible that a social media search could – even inadvertently – reveal postings which evidence an applicant’s: Participation in religious activities; Participation in social events that disclose sexual orientation; Participation in certain political organizations and beliefs; Physical Characteristics and disabilities.
If any such information were to influence or be used specifically during the hiring decision-making process it could result in liability based on a claim of discriminatory hiring practices.*
* No Legal Advice Intended: This website includes information about legal issues and legal developments. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact an attorney for advice on your specific legal problems.