A post in today’s HR Daily Advisor poses the question whether an employer is better or worse off using internet social networking sites as a means of performing background checks on  prospective employees.    On one hand, the internet is an inexpensive and easy way of getting information about a person’s background and character.  Given the risks of terminating employees, most companies would rather have such information before a person is hired in the first place.   Moreover, in the event the employee commits some act leading to a lawsuit against the company, the failure to utilize these easy sources of information could subject an employer to a claim of negligent hire.

On the other hand, there may be information about a person on the internet that is either not directly related to the job or is impermissible to consider when making a hiring decision.  An employer might learn information about the employee’s age, religion, union affiliation, or other activity that cannot be considered.   Moreover, there is no guarantee the information on the internet is completely accurate. Finally, the employee’s right to privacy should be considered.

Whether the internet is used in the first place should be based upon the importance of having the information about the prospective employee.   Once the decision has been made, the employer should be cautious to rely only upon permissible information, and utilize sources where there is not a high expectation of privacy. 

For other posts on the impact of social networking on employers, see the following:

Linked In and Lawsuits-Should You Be Concerned?

Text Harassment?

Employers and Social Networking–Contained in Mid Summer Employment Law Update

Are Social NetWorking Sites Private?