Employers are increasingly using social media to screen potential applicants. Sociologist Heather Williams has put together a thoughtful article on the ethics and problems associated.
Williams notes that employers should think carefully about the extent to which a person’s personal social media use affects their ability to carry out their job.
- Are you violating privacy by snooping into employee’s lives?
- Are you qualified to adequately assess the business impact of the information you see on someone’s Facebook profile?
- Are you committing an act of discrimination by acting on the information you see?
If you are going to carry out social media checks and it is lawful for you to do so in the state where you live, transparency is key.
Williams encourages employers to first obtain express consent from potential applicants before looking on their social media profiles. If you decide to terminate employment because of someone’s social media use, then this should also be made clear before hiring. Williams cautions against misusing social media in hiring and firing.
An employer may not be the best judge of what is lawful without careful legal consultation, and you may be choosing to fire someone for the wrong reasons – for something an employee does in their private time.
Read more on Williams’ research.