The internet is a wonderful thing, but privacy is, and always will be, an issue. Employers and employees should be aware that internet infiltration of the workplace occurs before and after a person is hired. In fact, as a recent Market Watch article points out, many employees are being checked out online both before and after they are hired.
Screening Future Employees
Many human resources professionals use the internet to Google prospective employees. This is done as a background check to help screen out undesirable candidates. However, opinions on the ethics of this choice are mixed. Some feel that this practice is unethical, since it invades a person’s privacy while others believe that is it a way to show that the job candidate was properly checked out, in case problems arise in the future.
If you are planning to use Google before hiring, it is important to remember that you cannot refrain from hiring someone due to his or her protected status. Anything you learn
about race, gender, religion, national origin, age or other protected details cannot be factored in. The more information you learn about a person through online Googling, the more vulnerable you come to being accused of considering impermissible factors when it comes to hiring. You should, therefore, weigh your choices carefully and restrict your search to limited information necessary to determine if the candidate is a good one.
Social Networking in the Workplace
Once employees are hired, the Internet searches don’t necessarily stop for many employers. According to the Proskauer Rose report from 2011, approximately 27 percent of companies monitor employees’ use of social networking sites. 43 percent have had to take action concerning the misuse of social media, and 31 percent enacted disciplinary measures because of
Monitoring an employee’s social media posts to determine if they are sharing confidential information or comments about the company can help you to keep an eye on the press you are receiving, but like with pre-employment monitoring, there are some risks. Most notably, certaintypes of speech on social networks are considered to be protected by the National Labor Relations Act. You cannot fire an employee for certain types of social media behavior, so when you find commentary online and take action, you may be setting your company up for a lawsuit.
The best way to protect yourself from bad social media postings isn’t necessarily to monitor employees and take action but is instead to be proactive about establishing a clear social media policy so employees will know what their obligations are.