Could Social Media Actually Result In Hiring Discrimination?

Job Seekers & Recruiters Beware:Could Social Media Actually Result In Hiring Discrimination?

As a recruiter you might be facing charges of discrimination in your screening process. But as a job seeker you just might be off the candidate radar if you are not actively using social media to help prospective recruiters and employers find you. Are you now part of the new “social media handicapped”. Just another sign of the digital divide.

Story Excerpt by Fay Hansen:
“Discriminatory Twist in Networking Sites Puts Recruiters in Peril

Sourcing applicants from Twitter or LinkedIn or screening candidates through Facebook or MySpace may open employers to discrimination charges.
By Fay Hansen

In the rush to cut recruiting budgets and avoid the avalanche of résumés now generated by job boards, employers are increasingly tapping professional and social networking sites as a sourcing tool.

Some employers now rely heavily or even exclusively on Twitter or LinkedIn to fill open positions. While this approach may create short-term cost savings and new efficiencies, it may also skew applicant pools and trigger discrimination lawsuits.

“Networking sites, including Twitter, exclude whole populations,” says Jessica Roe, managing partner at Bernick, Lifson, Greenstein, Greene & Liszt in Minneapolis. “We are going to end up with a very homogenous workforce. The social networks represent limited social groups and very small labor pools. It’s an enormous issue.”

According to the latest data from Quantcast, only 5 percent of LinkedIn users are black and only 2 percent are Hispanic.

“Social networking sites are problematic because the population is limited and highly selective,” Roe notes. “I anticipate more race and age claims over the next two years, and a significant portion will be from sourcing through social networking sites, where the users are generally white and age 20 to 40. We’ll see lawsuits.

“Employers don’t want to pay recruiters, so they take the path of least resistance, but they have to look very carefully at the applicant pool and cast a much broader net. Recruiters are often swept up by the latest process. Minor decisions lead to major consequences.”

Using networks for recruiting is ripe with risk for future discrimination claims, says Pamela Devata, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago.

“Sourcing from professional network sites such as LinkedIn carries a risk that the method could be challenged on discrimination grounds,” Devata says. “It represents a hiring pool that is not open to the general population. Using a limited network may have a disparate impact. If hiring through these networks can be challenged, it will be.”

Employers should consider the risk of litigation arising from disparate impact claims.

“If the business practice is to use Twitter and the existing pool is 50 percent female and 20 percent minority, but you’re down to zero for both groups because your digital network is heavily male and non-minority, then you must establish that there is a business necessity for the practice,” says Paul Mollica, partner at Meites, Mulder, Mollica & Glink in Chicago. “The first company that gets sued for this will have to be very resourceful because it will be very difficult to establish a reason for relying exclusively on Twitter.”

Some employers are integrating Twitter into their employee referral programs to help employees connect with possible job candidates.

“Combining Twitter with employee referral programs could turn out to be a digitalized version of word-of-mouth hiring methods because you are simply using referrals and employees’ online acquaintances,” Mollica says. “If you combine these methods and use networks to expand the applicant pool, that’s a valid method, provided that you are also reaching candidates through broader means.””

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Fay Hansen is a contributing editor for Workforce Management.

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  1. Anonymous

    Sorry, but at my age and experience in my technical field I (and many colleagues) find Twitter and FaceBook and LinkedIn too unprofessional. I'm also finding that recruiters, HR staff and even managers who rely upon social networking are sadly unprofessional and inexperienced too. Maybe I miss some opportunities by abstaining from these social networking fluff sites, but then again if these

  2. Anonymous

    Hurrah, someone has finally spoken the truth. many in my generation are moderatly computer-savy (no matter how many classes I attend) and this on-line only job recruitment process excludes quite a few otherwise qualified candidates.<br /><br />it&#39;s easy to manuver through Word, or Excel, but some of the hoopps to get a resume, cover letter, and other attachments onto a n electronic system

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