Employers Turn to Social Media Before Hiring in Tumultuous Times

October 27, 2020

As employers balance protecting their employees and protecting their company brand, pre-employment social media screening can be a valuable resource in the hiring process. 

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic and political turmoil of 2020, an increasing amount of social media posts have caused public embarrassment for many companies and cost employees their jobs, not to mention the potential damage to the company brand.  As more people publicly post their opinions regarding controversial subjects, they can often put themselves and their company at risk. 

Research from the Pew Research Center reflects 70 percent of Americans use social media and studies from Careerbuilder.com have shown 70 percent of employers use some form of social media research before hiring a candidate.  From a compliance standpoint, employers who conduct social media research on their own may be putting their organization at risk and should rely on a qualified Consumer Reporting Agency for the research to ensure compliance regulations are being met.  Essential pre-employment social media screening focuses on potentially unlawful activity, violent behavior, racism, intolerance and sexually explicit material, all of which can cause an online uproar. 

Companies with clear social media policies and guidelines for acceptable social media use can improve their workplace, protect their long-term profitability and employer brand. 

The Arizona Republic reported last year the Phoenix Police Department disciplined officers over 2010 and 2016 posts, which allegedly disparaged minorities and Former First Lady Michelle Obama.  This shows even older opinions can be found and publicized.  Thorough background checks that look into the past across multiple social profiles may reduce the amount of delayed scandals.

Social media screening reports contain data from publicly shared profiles to provide a more comprehensive view of a candidate.  When obtained legally and compliant with the EEOC and Fair Credit Reporting Act, they bring in strong hires who strengthen an organization rather than pose a possible liability, such as the ones unfolding on the news at an increasing pace. 

The Baltimore Sun reported a Maryland State official was fired in August after posting memes in support of the suspect in the Kenosha, Wisconsin shootings.  In June, Fortune reported a writer for one of the Law and Order spin-off television shows was fired after he posted a picture of himself holding a rifle with comments regarding protestors.  The online news organization Patch.com reported a private school teacher in Maryland was fired in September for posting a photo of herself flipping off a conservative campaign bumper sticker.  Consider the impact to your customer relationships and does this type of behavior represent what your company stands for?

Law enforcement officials have also begun losing their jobs after posting about the ongoing demonstrations across the United States.  The Seattle Times reported an investigator for the Washington State Attorney General’s Office was fired in October after posting about an alleged encounter with a restaurant server wearing a Black Lives Matter button. 

Such controversial posts continue to affect employees and the organizations they work for, despite the appeals to first amendment rights.  In July 2020, the National Labor Relations Board modified its stance to place the burden on general counsel to prove an employee’s protected activity motivated disciplinary action, and if that is met, then an employer must prove it would take the same action with others. 

Employers are starting to enforce these policies across the board as the nation continues to weigh the social implications of appearing to support businesses in ill repute. More than ever employers are tasked with dealing with how employees communicate outside of the office. Employers are continually tasked with promoting a healthier workplace, which is free from intolerance and discrimination.  Failing to do so puts their organization at risk for potential litigation. 

Pre-screening also improves overall employee retention as it prevents terminations if problematic postings were discovered after hiring.    Employees also want to work for organizations that have a strong policy against racism and harassment in the workplace.  Having a solid social media policy in place that aligns with the business’s core values can contribute to increased employee retention. The current nationwide turnover average is 15 percent and lowering that will reduce significant onboarding and training costs over time.  Hiring a reputable consumer reporting agency to provide social media screening will ensure the information reported can legally be used to make a hiring decision and is not susceptible to any personal bias.  It also stops a hiring manager from viewing any protected class information.  The reports provided should only include those posts related to potentially unlawful behavior, violent behavior, racism, demonstrations of intolerance and sexually explicit material. 

Companies looking to strengthen their organization with employees who contribute to a positive work environment and not damage its reputation, should hire an outside consumer reporting agency with strong social media screening policies to create legal reports that clearly display questionable posts while protecting sensitive information.  As always, employers need the tools to ensure they are hiring and retaining the best employees and keeping their workplaces safe.   Including social media screening as part of your standard employment background screening process can provide a more holistic view of your candidates to help you make the right hiring decision for your organization.

Related Articles

Dive deeper into the world of risk management and investigative insights with our curated selection of related articles.

Los Angeles Has a New & Improved Fair Chance Ordinance

Los Angeles Has a New & Improved Fair Chance Ordinance

Employers hiring in Los Angeles must prepare for the new Los Angeles Fair Chance Ordinance, scheduled to take effect September 3, 2024.  This new law was introduced by the LA County Board of Supervisors and expands on the already existing protections afforded...

New NY Social Media Prohibitions:  Employers Beware

New NY Social Media Prohibitions:  Employers Beware

New York Governor Kathy Hochul recently signed legislation that significantly restricts employer’s access to and use of personal social media accounts.  If you are currently including a social media search as part of your recruiting or employment screening or...