Ugly Attack on Congress: Employers Turn to Social Media Background Checks
Violence, hate and intolerance should hold no place in our society. Not in our personal lives, not in our politics and not in our workplaces.
I’m going to guess that the overwhelming majority of those that read this post, regardless of political affiliation repudiate the actions that took place in Washington DC on January 6th when an angry mob turned angry words into an angry assault on our government.
As the FBI continues to investigate those that turned a free speech exercise into a violent assault on our government leaving at least two people dead, so too do employers.
Here’s just a sampling of the stories we’ve seen:
- Chicago-area data company, Cogensia terminated their CEO Bradley Rukstales after they determined he participated in the riots.
- Maryland-based direct marketing company, Navistar terminated one of their employees after he was photographed and his company ID was clearly displayed as he entered halls of congress.
- A Chicago real estate agent was terminated after her employers saw pictures of her participated in the violent demonstration on social media.
Noticing a trend here?
Employers are beginning to recognize that a simple web search holds a treasure trove of relevant information about an existing or prospective employee’s suitability for employment.
And while this is just the latest public example of the value social media and other online activity searches hold for employers. We said the same thing when peaceful riots turned violent over the Summer.
It bears stating that individuals have a right to their civil liberties and political preferences. That is not at issue. It becomes relevant when free speech turns to hate speech, a clear display of intolerance and criminal behavior.
As to those who believe free speech has no boundaries, check out SHRM’s recent article, Employees May Be Fired for Hate Speech on Social Media.
Many private-sector employees operate under a misunderstood notion of free speech, so it’s important for employers to educate employees, said Katrina Grider, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Houston. “Companies can hold employees accountable for their social media conduct,” she said. But, as a matter of fairness, “employees need to be educated about their responsibilities and the consequences of their social media conduct and activities.”
Let’s Face It. You’re Doing It.
The idea of checking out prospective candidates and employees’ online activity didn’t just start with this incident. It’s been going on for quite some time now, mainly as an undefined, inconsistent and general free for all type approach. And while it might not be a formal process, employees are always curious about their new and existing colleagues.
We believe that it is time for things to change meaningfully (which is why we invested in Ferretly last Summer):
- Reputational risk to brand and legal ramifications for not knowing something you should have or could have known is at an all-time high
- Employers have to formalize their policies and practices related to screening and monitoring their employees’ online presence
- In order to promote compliance, risk management and general fairness, employers need to consider outsourcing this process to those well-versed in conducting these checks
Time to Get Serious CRAs.
The truth is that most of you have sat on the sidelines with social media screening because clients weren’t specifically asking for it, concerns about the economics and clarity on how the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance impacts this kind of search.
As described above, we all know employers are doing this and it’s only a matter of time until they have to adopt more formal policies. In addition, the advanced technology and innovation is driving up the capacity to perform these searches is a fair and accurate way while driving down the cost of doing so.
No one is suggesting that a digital search should replace a traditional background check. We are simply suggesting that there is room for both and who better to offer this solution than CRAs?
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