• EEOC Meeting Addresses Social Media Discrimination Concerns in the Workplace

    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals
    March 19, 2014

    The use of social media in today’s workplace is having an impact on the enforcement of federal laws, a panel of experts told the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at a meeting held recently at EEOC headquarters.

    Here are some of the meeting’s highlights:

    • Panelists indicated that while the use of sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook can be valuable for identifying good candidates by searching for specific qualifications, the improper use of information obtained from such sites may be discriminatory since most individuals' race, gender, general age, and possibly ethnicity can be discerned from information on these sites.
    • Renee Jackson of Nixon Peabody LLP said employers should have either a third party or a designated person within the company who does not make hiring decisions conduct the social media background check and only use publicly available information, not requesting passwords for social media accounts.
    • Lynne Bernabei, of Bernabei & Wachtel PLLC, explained how use of personal social media accounts could figure into situations of workplace harassment. Even if employees post harassing or derogatory information about co-workers away from the workplace, for example, an employer may be liable for a hostile work environment if it was aware of the postings, or if the harassing employee was using employer-owned devices or accounts.
    • Panelists also discussed the increased use of social media as a source of discovery in employment discrimination litigation, even when housed on third-party sites.