Labor and Employment Law

The Social Media Trifecta – The SHRM, Nielsen and NLRB Reports – Part One

There has been so much talk lately about the future of social networking and the need for a well-drafted social media policy that I can hardly keep up.  Good thing I don't have to. Several reports - from SHRM, Nielsen, and the NLRB Office of the General Counsel - have caught my eye. Together, these reports tell the story of where we are and where we are going with social media and the impact social media has had on the evolving policies and practices of companies throughout the U.S.

In the first report highlighted in this series, SHRM published its survey findings on the use of social media in the workplace. According to this report, only 26% of organizations report using online search engines to screen candidates. This number has gone down over the past several years. As you can see in the chart below, the decline is largely due to concerns about the legal risks of discovering information about an applicant's protected class.

Source: SHRM

For example, what happens if a prospective employer finds out an applicant belongs to a certain religion when looking him up online? Even if the prospective employer does not consider this factor if/when it decides not to hire the applicant (because it would be improper and illegal to do so), he might still allege that it did. The applicant could claim that the prospective employer decided not to hire him after learning this information. And even if the company had a valid reason to not hire the applicant and did not improperly exclude him based on his religion - it is oftentimes better to not even tread near the murky world of the Internet when deciding whether or not to hire a candidate.

Another interesting key finding by SHRM:

In 2008, 72% of organizations had no formal or informal policies on the use of these sites for candidate screening. Today, this figure has dropped to 56%. In addition, 29% of organizations plan to implement a formal policy in the next 12 months, up from 11% in 2008.

Part two on the Nielsen Report to come...

Read more articles on employment law issues at Employment and the Law, a blog by Ashley Kasarjian

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