Workforce.com

Experts Still Warn to Beware of Information from Social Media when Hiring

There is 'so much information that's available out there' that the employer has to filter out the information to be sure it does not learn about issues it should not know about, such as religion and politics, panel contends.

November 4, 2011

Use of social media in the hiring process must be approached with caution, experts say.

When Chubb Corp. looks at companies' use of social media in hiring, it examines it to make sure "it's consistent and it's fair," said Catherine Padalino, Warren, N.J.-based vp and worldwide employment practices liability product manager for Chubb Specialty Insurance.

If the information on LinkedIn is checked for one candidate, it must be checked for all, she told attendees at the 24th annual Professional Liability Underwriting Society conference in San Diego.

She was among the speakers participating in a panel titled "EPLI Litigation: One Degree of Separation Between Employees' Use of Social Networking and Employers Exposures?"

Also speaking was Sarah K. Goldstein, a partner with law firm Kaufman Dolowich Voluck & Gonzo L.L.P. in Los Angeles, who said that as recently as 10 to 12 years ago, negligent hiring cases rested on whether references had been contacted.

Today, however, there is "so much information that's available out there" that the employer has to filter out the information to be sure it does not learn about issues it should not know about, such as religion and politics, said Ms. Goldstein, who represents employers.

Also discussed during the session was what was described as failure-to-hire cases.

John Steven West, a partner in law firm Allred, Maroko & Goldberg P.C. in Los Angeles and a plaintiffs attorney, said it is "really significant who gets an interview in the first place." If a pattern of rejecting qualified candidates can be established, that may be a gateway that leads to charges of discrimination, he said.

If a firm relies on a third party to do "first passes" in screening candidates, "I want to know more about the third party doing the evaluation," West said.

Lisa A. Turbis, senior corporate counsel at San Rafael, Calif.-based Autodesk Inc., said it is important not to take information from Facebook or other websites into consideration when making hiring decisions.

When asked under what circumstances can an employee be disciplined for off-hours activity, Turbis said it would be for instances in which the employee engages in behavior that violates company policy. That includes posting confidential information online or harassment, she said.