Social Media Risks to Employers

Megan Ruwe, Employment lawyer at Winthrop & Weinstine

Imagine this scenario: While searching the Internet, you come across a Facebook posting authored by one of your employees that includes derogatory statements and inappropriate pictures. You wish you had seen the blog before you hired the employee. What does this mean to you as an employer? What can you do about it now?

As technology continues to creep into our personal lives and we rely on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter as primary forms of communication, an increasing number of employers have encountered situations similar to the one described above. In an effort to control these situations, many employers now monitor employee use of social media websites. Employers must be aware, however, that monitoring applicants and employees over the Internet is not risk-free. In certain situations, federal, state, or local laws may protect employees from discipline or termination due to their Internet activities. 

Obtaining Information About Job Applicants On Facebook and Twitter

To alleviate concerns about job applicants, many employers search social media websites to obtain information about applicants.  Although this practice is common, employers that rely on social media websites to obtain information regarding applicants’ employment histories and personal lives should proceed with caution. Any picture of an applicant obtained on the Internet could subject the employer to a discrimination lawsuit for the failure to hire the applicant because of his or her race, ethnicity, gender, or any other protected classification that might be perceived from the picture. Likewise, searches that uncover an applicant’s membership in organizations based on protected classifications such as religious affiliation, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or even the armed forces may subject an employer to a lawsuit if the employer decides not to hire the individual. To minimize the risks of such searches, employers should be consistent when reviewing information regarding job applicants; if you conduct a search for one applicant, do so for all.


Continue Reading