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Using Social Media for Hiring Can Get you Sued

By Guest Writer | Last updated on

Guest post by Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.

I recently overheard two job seekers speaking about their plans to ensure that their LinkedIn and Facebook profiles are "employer appropriate."

It is not surprising that there has been an increase in the number of employers, particularly small business owners, who screen candidates' social medial profiles. Small business owners want to ensure that the individuals they hire are right for their business.

It takes time, resources, and money to hire and train someone. A profile may reveal photos of a candidate partying, abusing illegal substances, or engaging in other questionable behavior. The information is readily available and free. It could help you avoid hiring someone who is not the right fit for your business.

Yet, it is important to realize that using social media to screen applicants can also get you sued. Laws prohibiting discrimination apply to all stages of the hiring process, including applicant screenings.

In order to protect your business from lawsuits, remember these three things:

1. Know what you are entitled to know: You may learn information about a candidate from social media that you cannot ask about in a job interview. For instance, a posting on a candidate's profile may reveal his religious beliefs. But beware - the same discrimination laws apply. If you can't ask about it, you should not be looking for it. And you cannot use that information when making your hiring decisions.

2. Avoid the appearance of discrimination: Make a checklist of qualifications based upon the job description . Look for the same qualifications on the social media sites of all applicants.

3. Keep good records : Keep detailed records of why you decided to hire, or not to hire, a candidate. It may take you a few extra minutes to put in writing the non-discriminatory reasons for your decision. However, you will be thankful you did if a question ever arises about your screening process.

Jennifer K. Halford is an attorney whose practice focuses on business law and estate planning. She is also a professor at California State University, Chico, where she teaches Entrepreneurial Law.

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