Willcox, Buyck & Williams, PA Blog

Friday, June 21, 2019

Social Media and Hiring Practices - Five Things to Watch Out For

Almost everyone has a social media presence, including your potential new hires. Many employers research an applicant’s social media accounts as part of the screening and interview process. However, including social media in the screening and background process can have risks. If an employer is not careful, the employer could violate an applicant’s legal rights by checking the applicant’s social media accounts without the applicant’s consent. A South Carolina labor and employment lawyer can help you develop a process for including social media accounts in your background checks without violating any laws.

The Five Don’ts of Using Social Media Screening as Part of Your Hiring Process



1. DON’T use personal information that could violate federal employment laws.


Some information you may discover on social media accounts could violate federal employment laws depending on how you use the information. For example, employment discrimination based on color, sex, race, national origin, or religion is against the law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 protects applicants of a certain age and applicants with disabilities.

If you view private social media accounts before holding an interview or making a hiring decision, it could be difficult to prove that the personal information did not influence your hiring decision.

2. DON’T use internal human resource employees to research social media.

By hiring an outside screening agency to research social media accounts, you ensure that the person reviewing the account is not involved in the hiring process. Therefore, no one in your company has access to any personal information that may be protected by state or federal employment laws. However, you need to make sure that you comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act if you use an outside company to perform background checks.

3. DON’T forget to disclose your intent to access social media accounts to potential employees.


If you intend to review social media accounts during any phase of the hiring process, you need to add a notice on your company’s employment application form stating that the company may access social media accounts for business-related purposes only.

4. DON’T forget to keep detailed records.

Maintain records and keep copies of all social media accounts you access during the hiring process to prove that all information accessed was business-related, such as an applicant’s employment history, education, and special credentials.

5. DON’T use social media searches without a strict policy.

The process of checking social media accounts must be very strict, and you must be consistent in how you use social media as part of your hiring process. You need to ensure that you check social media accounts for all applicants at the same point in the hiring process. Checking applicants’ social media accounts during different phases of the hiring process could result in allegations of discrimination.

Contact a South Carolina Business and Corporate Law Attorney for Help


One of the best ways to avoid problems with social media background checks is to meet with a South Carolina business and corporate law attorney in the process of developing your procedures and policies. Schedule a consult with a member of our team at Willcox, Buyck & Williams, P.A. today. Because social media accounts include a great deal of personal information, it can be easy to violate an applicant’s legal rights without intending to do so. An attorney can help you develop a method for taking advantage of the benefits of including social media accounts in the hiring process without increasing your risk of liability for violating employment or other laws.

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