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Social Media Searches Leading to Employment Discrimination?

Today, Missouri employers are using social media searches to make hiring decisions. However, both the Federal and Missouri employment discrimination acts prohibit certain questions, including questions regarding pregnancy and family planning.

Surveys estimate that today more than 45 percent of employers are using social networking to screen candidates they interview. And, approximately 35 percent of employers find that it is appropriate to reject applicants based on what they find about the candidate on social media sites. However, certain information that is found cannot be used to reject any potential job applicant.

More personal information is currently available through social media than ever before. Employers can find out a lot about a potential employee just by performing a simply social media search. For example, a prospective employer might discover the gender of a candidate and possibly exclude the candidate from employment after discovering the candidate is a particular gender. And in Missouri, this is illegal. The Missouri Human Rights Act specifically prohibits discrimination in the hiring process based on the gender of a candidate for a position.

Additionally, an employer may find out a potential candidate is pregnant simply by searching and discovering her Facebook profile picture. Under the law, if social media information is used to exclude candidates who are pregnant, this could be a basis for pregnancy discrimination.

Those applying for jobs must be aware that employers are increasingly searching social media sites before making hiring decisions. Thus those seeking employment must be careful about what they post. However, employers may not use certain information to discriminate in the hiring process. If you feel you have been discriminated against, speaking with an employment discrimination lawyer is advised.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Web posts may hurt job chances: Many employers scan social networking sites," Steve Giegerich, Sept. 16, 2011

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