The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Federal laws to protect employees and job applicants against employment discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, veterans status, disability or genetic information.  It was formed in 1965, and it’s scope includes everything from the Americans with Disabilities Acts (ADA) to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and more.  In 2012, the EEOC announced that it received 99,412 private sector workplace discrimination charges.

Regarding Social Media Background Checks, the EEOC is working through some new and interesting territory; there remain many unanswered questions.

Of special interest to us is how the EEOC continues to grapple with social media and recruiting practices.  With social media, the protected status of job applicants can be quickly, informally, and inexpensively (basically for free) obtained on just about anyone by running a quickie online search.  So when conducting Social Media Background Checks, is this for permitted purposes and to verify and gain detail on resume information, or is it to eliminate certain unwelcomed applicants based on their demographics?

In a typical scenario, a recruiter has posted an online job ad, and is now looking at dozens of applicants to quickly eliminate all but a few.  One step is to do an online search on the applicant’s name and see what images or information appears. The question then is – do specific demographic groups do better or worse after this cut?  And this must be a rhetorical question, since these informal processes are rarely quantified, logged, or even openly discussed.  For many recruiters, quickie online searches are merely a time-saving measure.

Time-saving measures such as this may, however, be discriminatory.  What if the recruiter has biases?  Or thinks that the boss prefers certain people for certain positions?  What if the recruiter favors certain groups and doesn’t even realize it?  Sometimes this can only be proven with statistics.  The EEOC may investigate this situation, resulting in much lost time and legal expenses.  To avoid these problems, employers should:

1  Tell recruiters – no quickie searches at all until a later time in the recruiting process.
2  All people searches should be logged, and the search results saved.

To avoid this exposure entirely, use a third-party for any online recruiting investigations.