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Social Media Background Checks in 2014 – Trust Us, It’s Time to Stop

Social media is one of the greatest sources of information into an applicant’s lives, there is no denying it. Many individuals leave their lives wide open to the public without any privacy settings, so what’s stopping employers from looking up potential applicants and snooping around their social media profiles? Well, it may just be a lawsuit.

Just as social media is a gateway into an applicant’s possible seedy behavior, it also opens a window into an applicant’s protected information. This classification of protected information comes from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and states that gender, age, race, nation of origin and creed are all protected, private information. If any hiring decision is based off of these attributes and can be proven, it could spell out extreme legal consequences for the employer.

Compounding the issue, if an employer has access to this information and makes a hiring decision while knowing an applicant’s protected information, even if the hiring decision isn’t based on the protected information, it could mean a lawsuit. 

This is why over the last few years there has been such an extreme push back to employers snooping around their potential applicant’s social media profiles. At one point it wasn’t uncommon to have an applicant hand over their social media usernames and passwords at an employer’s behest. As of November 18, 2014 around 80% of all states have legislation introduced, pending or enacted to limit or prohibit an employer’s access to social media. 

That said, just because a state hasn’t enacted legislation prohibiting an employer from asking for an applicant’s social media accounts doesn’t mean they are exempt from a lawsuit. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is federal legislation and its mandates are universal. Any breach inadvertent or not, could open the floodgates of an impending lawsuit.

Ultimately, social media screening has become a taboo subject amongst any reputable background checking agency as the risks are too great to reap anything but trouble during its use. When considering looking through an applicant’s past through social media accounts it is better to simply avoid the notion all together. 

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