Pre-employment screening has been big news lately, as the rising use of social media for pre-hire screening comes into conflict with privacy laws meant to protect job candidates from discrimination. NPR tackled this sticky subject recently in a “Talk of the Nation” segment about just how far employment background checks should be allowed to go.
In particular, the segment examined the increasingly common practice of asking job candidates to turn over their Facebook login information during the pre-hire screening process. The Department of Justice has been asked to investigate whether such practices violate federal law.
The Problem with Social Media Screening
The danger in using Facebook and other social media networks for pre-employment screening is that hiring managers run the risk of stumbling across answers to questions that are legally off-limits, such as sexuality or marital status. Seeking or using such information during the hiring process is a violation of anti-discrimination laws.
Human resources expert Steven Kane warned that “unless an employer can show that somehow such information gleaned is really job-related to the role that they’re seeking this person to play, they are really playing with fire” in using social media for pre-hire screening.
Currently Legal, But Not for Long
While asking for social media login information for pre-employment screening purposes is currently legal nationwide, it may not be for long. The Maryland legislature has approved a bill that would ban employers from requesting social media logins, and other states are expected to follow suit. In some cases, the American Civil Liberties Union has also thrown its support behind the proposed laws.
Regardless of how the legislation pans out, employers need to be careful with their pre-hire screening processes, Kane cautioned.
“At the end of the day, the employer needs to be able to justify its overall hiring practices, and if it gets a reputation for doing things that either applicants or its employees find distasteful, it will suffer in the marketplace.”