Just Because You Can, Should you? The Great Debate over Social Media Background Checks

By Blair Crawford

searchMany people are speculating that social media background checks are going to be the new future for employment checks.  At the present time, they are allowed, although the actual legality of this practice is in debate.  But because employers have the option of performing this, does that mean they should?  Is it ethical and does it truly reflect upon a person’s ability to perform their job responsibilities, especially in the medical field; more specifically nursing?

There are benefits to social media background checks.  It allows employers or job recruiters to find out information that is not available on a traditional background check.  For instance, in nursing, it would allow a potential employer to see if this person has discussed prior patients or their employer of the past.  They can see if any hospital policy was talked about and therefore violated.  But this isn’t an efficient means of determining the eligibility of a potential employee, as information obtained via these methods may not be used in this determining employment eligibility.

Another benefit that is not seen on a traditional background check is a person’s personality and character.  They can use social media to determine if that particular person’s character would be a good match for their company.  The drawback is that how people act in a social setting may be very different than how they act in a professional setting.  A person applying to be a nurse may be extremely professional and highly skilled at their job.  But on social media sights they may let loose a little, or have pictures posted of them at a bar.  This does not mean that it would affect their nursing ability, but it would cast a shadow of doubt to a potential employer.

A major drawback for people in human resources management is holding this type of information against someone could open the company up for a lawsuit.  Also, there are potential discrimination laws that may arise.

Many hospitals have specific standards when it comes to social media and these are outlined in a very specific manner.  The practice of discussing hospital policy and patient care are forbidden.  Obviously who is in the hospital or what they have gone to the doctor for are absolutely not to be talked about.  It violates privacy laws and HIPAA laws and will be grounds for termination.

The issue of looking up someone’s personal information on social media sites simply because you can is going to explode into a major issue that laws are going to be developed over.  Some are already in progress.  The bottom line is this: set security settings on your media accounts and be careful what you put online.  Once it’s online, it cannot be taken back.

Blair Crawford is an emerging marketing and social media talent valuing innovation, hard work, and a relentless approach to creating value for clients and stakeholders. She can be reached on Twitter at @blair_crawford.


Problems of the Foreseen “Skills Gap”

By Christina Lynch, PHR

Employers and staffing firms alike have shown great concern in a skills gap that has been identified and anticipated to worsen over time. I have heard many suggestions on how “we” as human resource professionals, and company representatives should assist in resolving this issue. The federal government has shown their concern and proposed providing more funding for school. For technical schools…yes, of course; for colleges and universities….maybe not so much. Based on the information provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in my own analysis and judgment, the positions with the greatest changes require less than a high school diploma, a high school diploma or associate’s degree. By constantly promoting college and creating this image that college defines ‘success,’ we are creating an overqualified society. We have lost the value of skilled labor, and thus, diminished the important role these positions have in society. So, instead of supporting government to fund millions into colleges and universities, how about stimulate growth in the high schools and technical schools. How about we create a program focused on increasing interest in these positions that are anticipated to grow substantially in the next ten years.

factory workerAs an employer, I do not feel obliged to have to go to middle and high schools to convince students why they should work at my company five to ten years later. If the government is concerned about this skills gap, let’s work wisely  to create a viable solution. Overeducating our workforce in areas with low demand is not maintaining a foundation that has been established for this country. Thousands of individuals are experiencing a diminishing rate of return when they spend additional years obtaining a degree that will not provide additional income or higher quality of life.

I am not ignoring the fact that there are many positions that require a bachelor, master or doctorate degree. And to be honest, I was quite shocked at the amount of positions expected to have high growth with requirements of a Master’s or Doctorate degree. For these positions, I truly believe there should be funding focused on these fields. But to say that the cost of a undergraduate and graduate degree should be a fraction of the cost it is today would only create more issues. The fact of the matter is, there are not enough positions requiring bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degrees to lower the cost and continue to promote these programs. It’s time we as a society get realistic; determine the real needs of our communities, and work together to find individuals to meet those needs. We have determined the positions expected to grow, and identified the shortage in labor supply. Our next step is to promote the short-term training programs and attract enough labor to meet the future demands.

Feel free to check out the numbers: (http://data.bls.gov/oep/noeted). Four of the top ten positions with the greatest percentage employment change require less than a high school diploma. Two of the top ten positions require a high school diploma; and two of the top ten require an associate’s degree. Are you sure spending thousands of dollars on a degree will secure everyone’s future?


Be Alert! It’s a New HR World!

By George A. Allen, SPHR

capitol5Plan now to attend the HR Florida “Day on the Hill in Tallahassee” on April 17-18.  With the governmental issues that are on tap for 2013, there is a whole new world in human resource management facing us and speakers at the event will be addressing the following subjects and more.

The new world begins with hiring and firing which is no longer simply a matter of saying this one will fit and this one will not.  We have always had to be very careful not to look at certain things about a candidate because we might discover something which could be alleged to prejudice our decision causing us to take action which might infringe on that person’s rights.

What in the world are you talking about, you ask?  This has been the environment since the 1960s when the Civil Rights and the Age Discrimination acts were passed.  Yes, I respond, but now they are actually talking about enforcing those laws and others as well.  So you better watch out for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the National Labor Relations Board and the good ole’ Department of Labor.  They have all indicated stepped up staffing and funding for enforcement in the coming year.

Now, I know all this sounds like an alarmist talking but I do find it interesting when I am told that background checks must be carefully monitored in the event you find out if someone has a criminal background.  Should that happen, you must only consider if they have been convicted of a crime and if so you must apply a three step assessment process before you decide the person fits or doesn’t fit the job. The EEOC will be looking into those situations so be careful what you find out in those background checks.  Of course, if you don’t include arrest and conviction records in your background check and something bad happens, you could be held to be negligent in the hiring process.  So, be careful out there.

Although immigration legislation has yet to be even drafted, the current proposals for comprehensive immigration reform suggest that employers will continue to bear the brunt of the government’s resources expended on enforcement. After all, wrote a noted HR immigration expert Dave Whitlock, there is a limit to the number of unmanned aerial drones that can patrol the skies above our borders,.  So, get to know E Verify really well.

Chris Parker, attorney and mediator, recently blogged that trends reveal employment retaliation claims are on the rise. Further, courts are taking a hard line on offending employers accused of retaliation in employment. A review of United States Supreme Court decisions in retaliation cases reveals a remarkable degree of agreement among the Justices. Even conservative Justices who are considered supportive of business as a matter of judicial philosophy do not take kindly to retaliation against employees who have asserted workplace legal claims.  The NLRB is also stepping up efforts to protect employee rights in the social media arena.

President Obama devoted a good portion of his State of the Union Address the other night to human resource matters extolling the virtues of raising the minimum wage to $9 a hour in three years, establishing high tech training centers for manufacturing around the country and pushing harder for enforcing equal pay laws.

Top off all these issues and others with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the many rules and regulations that will be coming out necessary for it to be enforced and I think you will agree we will indeed have a most interesting year ahead in the work place.

We are not sure how all these ideas will be funded or even if they will all actually come about, but you can be sure that human resource professionals will be in the thick of making them all work if they do.