There’s no doubt about it – social media is affecting every aspect of our lives. From sharing pictures and tidbits with family and friends, to networking with potential clients or employees, social media offers an abundance of opportunity to connect. It also opens you up to potential liabilities.

How can you avoid social media legal liabilities?
Social media can be an extremely valuable tool for your business. The following legal guidelines can help you ensure you are using social media as a way to enhance the recruiting process, without incurring legal liabilities:

  • Determine whether you need to use social media sites at all.
    Have you had several recent bad hires? Are you finding that traditional methods of recruiting are not delivering enough quality candidates or background information? If you’re not having difficulty finding the information you need to make a hire, it may be best to avoid social media sites altogether.
  • Beware private information available on social media sites.
    Perhaps some of your prospective employees haven’t taken advantage of the privacy settings available on sites like Facebook and Twitter. The mix of information you find on these sites should be used with extreme discretion, if at all. If you take information from these sites into account, it is essential to verify the information from a reputable source before using it to make a hiring decision. Miss this key step, and you’re exposing your organization to potential infringement of privacy or discrimination suits.
  • Stick to professional networking sites.
    Professional sites like LinkedIn can offer reference checks, insights into professional experience and other useful information during the hiring process. Most importantly, LinkedIn is a professional social networking site. While discretion is still important, as personal information can sometimes find its way to LinkedIn profiles, the information candidates share on this site is often geared primarily toward career and industry experience and insights – information that can be extremely valuable when making a hiring decision.

These tips can help you avoid situations that may expose you to legal problems. But, if you find yourself with knowledge of protected information from a social media site, what can you do?

How do you act upon information from social media sites?

It’s not exactly easy to “un-learn” information, yet, Federal Equal Employment Laws prohibit employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities, and prohibit bias based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, age, as well as other considerations. State and Local laws may impose even stricter rules depending on where your business operates.

Most HR managers know that they cannot ask questions about this information in an interview, but what happens if you discover this information on a social media site?

Federal and State laws dictate that protected information cannot “motivate” employment decisions. If you feel that you must use social media sites as part of your hiring decisions, ensure that you have prepared extensive information and research on each candidate. If you find yourself on the wrong end of a discrimination lawsuit, documentation is essential to proving your case.

Finding truly unique and qualified candidates can be a daunting task, and social media is a tempting target for information and opportunity. If you’re having difficulty finding top-tier talent for your organization, Masiello Employment Services can help. Our experienced staffing and recruiting team can find the talent your organization needs to succeed. To learn more, contact us today.