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Aronson Insurance Blog

The Do’s & Don’ts of Checking Applicants Social Media

Chubb recently posted an article on the do’s and don’ts of checking job applicants social media with regards to hiring solutions and we wanted to share.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently invited industry experts to participate in a meeting to discuss equal opportunity employment laws and the use of social media in the workplace.  An increasing number of organizations use social media for various reasons. Social media and blog sites are valuable ways to keep employees engaged and informed of new policies and programs, particularly for employees who work in isolated offices or from home. Social media can also be useful for marketing products and services to potential clients or as a resource in recruiting and hiring new employees.

Legal experts who attended the meeting pointed out that although using social media in recruitment and hiring can be beneficial, it can also increase discrimination risks. Regardless of how applicant information is obtained, employment decisions cannot be based on an applicant’s personal characteristics that can be gleaned from social media, such as race, color, gender, or age. “Social Media Is Part of Today’s Workplace but its Use May Raise Employment Discrimination Concerns,” (Mar. 12, 2014).


Surveys conducted by a leading human resource organization show a major increase in the use of social media for recruiting from 34 percent in 2008 to 77 percent in 2013.
Organizations using social media to collect background information need to recognize the potential for discrimination risk. Information about an individual’s race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, ethnicity, or other protected criteria can often be learned through social sites, but should never be used as a basis for an employment decision. Once an organization has the information, however, it becomes difficult to prove that the information was not used in the hiring or other employment decision.

Employers should restrict their searches to publicly available information only and consider assigning an employee who does not make hiring decisions to conduct the background checks. Creating and consistently following specific non-discriminatory criteria for evaluation purposes can limit the risk for discrimination claims.

In addition, hiring managers need to keep in mind that information found online is not always accurate or up-to-date. Any information found on social media that is cause for concern should prompt further discussion with the candidate. Try to avoid focusing on a single negative, but instead look for patterns of inappropriate behavior.