The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission held a public meeting on the use of social media in the workplace, and its impact on the enforcement of equal employment opportunity laws yesterday. The commission heard testimony that addressed issues such as recruitment and hiring, harassment, and discovery.
According to EEOC Chair Jacqueline Berrien, “The increasing use of social media in the 21st century workplace presents new opportunities as well as questions and concerns. This meeting has helped the EEOC understand how social media is being used in the employment context and what impact it may have on the laws we enforce and on our mission to stop and remedy discriminatory practices in the workplace.”
Commissioner Victoria Lipnic added, “As policymakers and regulators, it is our challenge, and I believe our responsibility, to do all that we can to ensure that our interpretation and administration of the laws within our charge are as current and fully-informed as possible.” Thus, the EEOC held the meeting to gather information, not to provide guidance.
Rather than summarize the hours of testimony (which you can read for yourselves here), I want to focus on the following question that the EEOC posed on Twitter (where else) during the meeting:
The answer is that these legal issues are not new; all that is new is the communication media impacting those legal issues. For example:
- Social media hasn’t changed the law of workplace harassment, but it has opened up new opportunities for employees to harass each other by permitting employees to stay connected to each other around the clock. Thus, employers must guard against and investigate off-duty harassment.
- Most employers know that they can’t ask a job applicant questions about their medical history, but they flock to Google and Facebook where they can learn that very same protected information.