Social media background checks come with potential complications for employers

More employers are using social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to find out more about their potential employees. While such social media background checks are becoming increasingly popular, they come with a host of potential land mines, including privacy issues and misinformation. Here are a few legal risks employers take when applying pre-employment screening processes to an applicant’s social media persona.

  1. Credibility, Accuracy and Authenticity Issues: Is the information accurate? How do you know?
  2. Computer Twins: Many, many people have “twins” online – more than one person who shares their exact name. How do you know whether the information you’ve found is about your job applicant, or someone else with the same name?
  3. Too Much Information: There is a wealth of information on social media sites that employers can now find but legally CANNOT use when making hiring decisions. Knowing an applicant’s race, religion, marital status, age, sexual orientation and other details about their personal life can open you up to a lawsuit if someone doesn’t get the job and is suspicious about why.
  4. Too Little Information: Employers could be accused of negligent hiring if someone is harmed by an employee and that victim can show that easily accessible information could have prevented the hiring of that person. If an employer hasn’t thoroughly checked every available resource for information on that applicant, he could be looking at a lawsuit.
  5. Legal Off-Duty Content: As long as it’s legal, what someone does in their personal life, on their own time, is none of an employer’s business. Yet social media sites sometimes reveals information to employers that alter their sense of a job applicant’s judgment, personality or morals. While an employer has to take into consideration the whole person when hiring, it is illegal to discriminate based on someone’s personal preferences or lifestyle choices.

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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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