It has already been fairly well-established that using social media can be detrimental to one’s employment status. Employees have been fired and/or sued for posting about their current bosses and applicants know that their social media platforms might be reviewed by hiring managers. These are things that can be controlled by the user, in this case, the applicant. If you don’t want prospective employers to know you like to party hard on the weekends, then don’t post those pictures on your Facebook page of you and your friends doing shots at the bar. And, no matter how many times your boss asks for those TPS reports, it is not a good idea to take to Twitter to complain about her.
But what happens when the social media platform that is supposed to help you find a job suddenly turns on you?
That question is at the heart of a lawsuit recently filed against LinkedIn, the popular business-networking social media platform. The site is being sued in California due to concerns that the company has violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). LinkedIn offers a “Trusted Reference” report to its paid subscribers, which compiles a list of potential job candidates and allows employers to contact possible co-workers of the candidate via the message system built into LinkedIn. This puts LinkedIn in murky territory where they are essentially offering a pre-employment verification and reference service. All of this is done without the candidate’s knowledge or consent, which violates the candidate’s rights. Essentially, the lawsuit claims, LinkedIn is operating in the capacity of a credit reporting agency (CRA) by offering this service, which does not provide any means for candidates to dispute negative or inaccurate information about themselves as the FCRA requires.
What does this mean for you, as an applicant? Well, it might mean that you should vet your LinkedIn connections, particularly those you have worked with at one time or another, to make sure you know what they will say about you if asked. It may also mean that you ask potential employers about their pre-employment background screening process and find out which employment background screening providers they use.
UPDATE: The suit was dismissed on April 14, 2015. In a 21-page opinion, U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal ruled that LinkedIn could not be considered a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) as defined by the FCRA.
Do you post on your social media platforms with your job in mind? Or do you post what you like without fear of consequences from your employer? Tell us in comments what you think!
The Cedalius Group offers insight into the background screening industry for educational purposes. We always recommend you consult with your legal counsel to determine practices that best suit your business needs.