Employers and Social Media

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There have been numerous reports lately about employers checking up on employees or potential employees on Facebook, MySpace, and other forms of social media.  I do not have a problem with this in principle.  I am one who has always believed that you should be real wherever you are.  If the real you is a crazy, backbiting, vendetta-seeking drunk, it is going to catch up with you.

Being denied employment because someone found out ahead of time instead of firing you later might actually do you a favor.  It might just give a person the motivation he needs to get his life together.  What bothers me more than extreme cases like that is, in most instances, the information that people provide about themselves on Facebook and other social media sites is personal information.

It is already difficult enough for people to get jobs because of personal matters that an employer might be able to see.  A pregnant woman will never know if she did not get that job because she tanked the interview or because the employer saw the bulge in her belly.  The Muslim woman never really knows if it was because of her hijab or her CV.  And of course, despite what some affirmative action opponents may think, a black man never knows if he failed to get a job because of his skill set or because of the color of his skin.

Those are the apparent issues.  Now throw in all of the other personal issues that are not apparent.  For example, maybe an employer is fine with the pregnant woman and her interview, but then he goes on MySpace and sees an entry she wrote about abortion.  She might be for or against it, but suddenly that woman’s personal views are under the scrutiny of someone who might have the power to hire or fire her.

Perhaps that Muslim woman was all set to get the job until her interviewer read her blog post about supporting Palestinians’ right of return.  Maybe he could overlook her hijab but not her views on Israel.  The possibilities for discrimination are multiplied tenfold.

You can learn a lot about a person on such sites: political views, religious views, sexual orientation, personal plans, lifestyle, even information about their family members.  All of it is personal, and despite the fact that it might be readily available on the Internet, none of it should affect employment.  Companies should set policies against social media snooping or at least establish stringent guidelines over what is and is not fair game.  After all, your love for shooting people in Grand Theft Auto IV and then bragging about it on Twitter, might just cost you your job, and you will never know.

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