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Social Recruiting a Growing Hotbed for Discrimination Claims?

CIO.com recently published a very informative article titled “Social Networks: A New Hotbed for Hiring Discrimination Claims.”  The article gives an in-depth perspective into the world of corporate recruiting, in particular how recruiters are using social networks more and more to evaluate potential hires.

Social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter give recruiters and hiring manager the opportunity to peer into a potential candidate’s everyday life, work habits and personal information.  More and more, recruiters are using information gathered from social networks to  determine whether a candidate is a good fit for their company.  However, using this information as the basis for a hire can lead to a bevy of discrimination claims against the company.

This is a topic that Newton Software has been following very closely. Newton’s own Joel Passen, interviewed Dr. Stephanie Thomas, one of the leading experts on the analysis of equal employment opportunity issues, almost a year ago for a podcast titled, “Can Social Recruiting Lead to Discrimination and Equal Opportunity Issues “.

In this recent article, CIO.com spoke with HR consultant Jessica Miller-Merrell about some of the risks involved with using social networks to make hiring decisions.  She outlines potential legal risks including the niche demographic breakdown of specific social networks as well as the necessity for concise affirmative action reporting for government contractors.

She goes on to talk about how using someone’s personal information to determine their qualifications can be problematic: “if you make hiring decisions based on protected information that a candidate provides on the Internet—if you decide not to hire someone because you find out they’re Muslim, pregnant or their child has a health condition—these are hiring decisions that can get you in hot water.”

There’s been a growing trend of more and more claims of workplace discrimination getting submitted over the past several years, and the addition of social networking as a hiring tool is bound to only increase the rate of claims.  Every year, companies face an uphill climb to follow confusing regulations that require them to provide detailed reports to various federal agencies.

These are the very factors Newton took into account when we decided to build EEOC / OFCCP compliance features into our recruiting software.  We realized that companies already face a great risk in regards to complying with the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs for government contractors.)  Bad or ignorant hiring practices and  decisions can sink a business due to costly litigation battles over wrongful discrimination.

Newton’s EEOC /OFCCP Compliance tools make sure that all the right information gets collected, stored and tracked regardless of the source of the data. Voluntary self-identification surveys, reasons for non-selection, hire/offer logs, minimum qualification questions and flow logs (EEO1 reports) are just a few of the tools that can help recruiters and human resources professionals  keep track of all the mandatory information.   Newton makes EEOC and OFCCP compliance a seamless part of the hiring process, so that when the time comes, a company doesn’t need to scramble to deal with a problem.

While we haven’t yet seen a pervasive precedent set regarding social networks and social recruiting, experts agree that it’s just a matter of time. As more companies are learning to use social networks as recruiting tools, there will be a social media recruiting precedent before you know it.  For now, our advice is to seek guidance from counsel especially before using social media to vet applicants and to always have a consistent, compliant process in place when distributing job related information to social networks.

Citations

Levinson, Meredith.  “Social Networks: A New Hotbed for Hiring Discrimination Claims.” CIO.com. April 18th, 2011. http://www.cio.com/article/679830/Social_Networks_A_New_Hotbed_for_Hiring_Discrimination_Claims_?page=1&taxonomyId=3123

About Andy Chan