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Is a Social Media Background Check Discrimination?

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Social media is playing more and more of a roll in everyone’s life. As the legalities of the use of social media in various circumstances develop, it is important to consider the ramifications of its use, including employers who use social media as a means of discrimination.

The Wall Street Journal published a report in 2013 about a study that Carnegie Mellon University did on the discrimination taking place with the use of social media with the use of fake resumes. The study indicates that U.S. companies are searching social media outlets for information on resumes received from applicants. The results showed that candidates who were found to be Muslim via social media were less likely to be called for an interview than candidates who indicated they were Christian.

This study implies that companies are, in fact, using social media as a form of discrimination in the hiring process. With protected areas, such as religious affiliations, an employer does not have to be as blatant as asking the applicant about their beliefs; the employer can simply access social media. The ease of finding this information, however, does not make it legal. It is still considered discrimination.

Recommendations to Avoid Discrimination Based on Social Media

While many might advise employers to never use social media, there are plenty of benefits of accessing applicant’s profiles on these readily available sights, including the discovery of:

  • Illegal drug use references
  • Negative information disclosed about a past employer
  • Discriminatory behavior on the part of the applicant
  • If the applicant has released confidential information via social media
  • The applicant’s communication skill level

To avoid the discovery of the protected EEO areas, you must enlist a current employee who can keep information strictly confidential and who is not involved in the hiring process to access the social media profile of the applicant and provide a report delineating important, non-discriminatory information posted by the applicant. This process will guide the employment process without discrimination.

Chicago Employment Discrimination Representation

If you have questions about the use of social media and employment, you need to contact the employment legal specialist at Goldman & Ehrlich in Chicago.