Social media background checks can have implications of liability

We’ve written a lot about social media background checks lately, because it’s a trend that’s creeping into both formal company policies and informal hiring practices. It’s on the minds of employers who haven’t begun implementing any sort of social media check, and it’s on the minds of every Facebook and Twitter user who has contemplated what sorts of things they’ve shared that might come back to haunt them during their next job search.

Employers need to think long and hard about possible legal consequences before asking job applicants for their username and passwords in order to access personal profiles on select social media websites. Employers often don’t realize that once they’ve asked for an applicant’s social media login information, they become liable for the content posted.  This can be trouble in a few different ways.

  1. If an applicant admits guilt to some kind of crime within their personal profile, the employer who is given access to it may assume liability for protecting the information they find.
  2. If an employer finds out an applicant’s age, sexual orientation or another protected class, and then decides not to hire that person, they could be opening themselves up to discrimination claims by the applicant who was not given a job.
  3. If an employer misses signals or warning signs and something happens (crime is committed, someone is injured) the employer could become liable.

Social media background checks are here to stay in some capacity. But employers need to approach this trend with careful consideration.


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Kristina Taylor
In 1989, Kristina began her career as a customer service representative at the newly formed American Tenant Screen, Inc. Ten years later, she pioneered tenant background screening on the Internet. As a long-standing member of the National Multifamily Resident Information Council (formerly the National Association of Screening Agencies) Kristina gains insight into the trends of the tenant screening industry to better understand the current and future needs of their clients.

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