As people spend more and more time on social media, it becomes easier to track their lives and gain a rough understanding of who they are. Companies know this, and social media sites sell data about each and every one of us to these companies.
Social media is increasingly used as an advertising tool, and potential customers can be pinpointed for various products. Advertisements for those products pop up on just about every website to which a person navigates.
Just as companies are using data found on social media to sell products, employers are turning to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms to make employment decisions. However, this practice can be extremely risky for an employer should they accidentally make an employment decision based on a protected characteristic of the employee or job applicant.
Discrimination During the Hiring Process
Sixty-eight percent of American adults use Facebook, according to the Pew Research Center, and that percentage point is higher for middle aged and young adults. An employer can quickly gather information about an applicant using his or her Facebook account, such as political affiliation, favorite genre of movies and books, hobbies, and other interests.
An employer could potentially use Facebook for more sinister purposes as well, such as figuring out the applicant’s age, gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, pregnancy status, marital status, and country of origin. If it is found out that an employer based their decision to not hire the applicant on any of those protected personal characteristics, the applicant could sue.
Discrimination of a Current Employee
While the majority of people in a survey believed that it was not okay to be Facebook friends with one’s boss, most people do believe that it is perfectly fine to be Facebook friends with other colleagues, according to the Huffington Post. This should give an employer an idea about how their employees feel about their social media being used to make employment decisions — that they do not think it is appropriate.
As an employer, you need to tread very carefully when using social media to fire, demote, or promote someone. Ask yourself if the employee’s behavior displayed on social media is illegal, unethical or immoral, is considered hate speech, or is hurting your business. If it is not, chances are that you should not use that social media information to make an employment decision — doing so could open you up for a discrimination lawsuit if the employee’s protected characteristics came into play.
A Chicago Employment Law Attorney is Here to Help
Chicago employers stand a lot to lose, and not a lot to gain by using social media for making employment decisions. If you have questions about an action that you wish to take, or if you are facing allegations of discrimination, contact the skilled DuPage County employment law attorneys of Momkus LLC today for legal guidance.