Using social media as a screening tool sometimes seems too good to be true. And, if you don’t follow the law, it can be.

This law firm reports that there is “nothing inherently unlawful” about social media snooping. But if, as an employer/boss/hiring manager/recruiter, you go beyond social media nosiness and tread into using social media as a hiring barometer, you could land yourself in court.

Why? Most social media profiles include information that could be considered discriminatory if you use it in a hiring decision:

• Race

• Color

• Gender

• National Origin

• Religion

• Disability

• Citizenship

• Pregnancy

• Age

Some states offer additional protection for:

• Sexual Orientation

• Weight

• Marital Status

Although many employers who conduct in-house background checks are smart and cautious enough to adhere to this, problems arise when background checks that include social media screening are outsourced to a third party.

We’re not talking nationally-accredited background check firms like Active Screening. No, folks like us know how to access and present information that is fully compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and will not land you in hot water with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

We mean data aggregators and social media data collection companies who often churn out piles of information with blatant disregard for the law or accuracy.

So, how do you steer clear of the EEOC/FTC/FCRA trifecta, but also take advantage of social media while recruiting and hiring?

1. Always update your policies

As time changes so must your policies. This is where many employers go wrong. They make a policy that remains the same for years. With something as fluid as social media, the policy you created in December may be irrelevant by May. Don’t fall short due to outdated information.

2. Figure out how social media fits into your current process

Recruiting and hiring is a process. Before using social media you need to figure where social media belongs and what it will add to your current program. Read 7 Steps to Implement Social Media Screening by our marketing czar, RJ Frasca, for tips.

3. Steer clear of data aggregators and social media data collection companies

They do not have your best interests, or those of your candidates, at heart.

4. Don’t rely on social media alone

It should be one part of a comprehensive program that includes information like driving records, criminal records, references and credentialing, and drug testing.

5. Research state laws

Social media has been around long enough that there are laws dictating employer behavior. Before using social media start with research. Look up your state legislation – laws that are already passed and those in question. This will be a great guide for using social media.

6. Stay educated

Finally, set up alerts for social media and stay updated on the latest news. Social media changes faster than FCRA law but just because you think you’re ahead of the curve, doesn’t mean the law won’t catch up.

If you are using a social media data collector, call us immediately to verify you’re in FCRA compliance. Or, if you know someone who is using one, send them this blog post. It could save them big bucks by preventing a potential lawsuit.

What are your biggest social media screening questions? Shoot us a comment or an email here.

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