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Hire Using Social Media but keep EEOC Compliance in Mind.

Many hiring managers have jumped on the technology bandwagon while searching for the right applicant match for their open positions. Technology as a whole is a useful tool for the human resource department as long as managers are careful how it is used. It is important to avoid legal mishaps and applicant complaints from searching and hiring talent on social media websites.

Using social sites to screen new talent can put your firm at risk of civil rights issues under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It can also become an issue for other discrimination acts put into place to protect people’s rights related to age, race, disability, gender and more. LinkedIn has become a popular way to seek job applicants, screen them and hire them. While preliminary searches are deemed as legal, screening and hiring are in a legal gray area.

As yet, there has not been any litigation generated due to this issue. However, litigation usually lags behind popular introductions to technology; therefore, it is not impossible that legal cases will crop up over time. Employers are using social sites for hiring purposes in increasing amounts, leading to more government attention on this practice. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 77 percent of their members regularly use social networking websites for recruiting, with LinkedIn as a favored source. One of the problems is the large amount of detailed information available about a potential employee that can be accessed on various platforms. Much of this type of information is not available in a normal hiring process.

In order to avoid any legal issues, human resource managers should employ best practices in this area. When screening for applicants using social media for recruiting, it is possible to retain the benefits without the legal risks. Suggested practices include only using public profiles when screening applicants, developing policies for determining appropriate actions related to online screenings, checking profiles at the end of the hiring process along with other background checks and documenting any negative reactions from applicants related to using social media.

Since at this point in time the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is not planning to issue any specific guidance on this issue, human resource managers need to work with their attorneys to manage potential risk factors. If employers limit their social sites screening to information that they are allowed to have by law, it will minimize any risk in using social media sites as recruitment tools. Training company recruiters in the legal issues around using social media sites in this manner will help keep companies’ usage honest.

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