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Companies' social media use may lead to workplace discrimination

In today's social media age, people often enjoy the benefits of being connected to others around the country and even the globe. It is now much easier to keep up with what family, friends or even strangers are doing. At the same time, it's also possible for potential employers to keep up with what aspiring employees are doing. Some individuals are raising concerns about whether the use of social media by employers may actually be contributing to workplace discrimination problems when it comes to hiring in California.

A recent meeting took place at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on how social media's pervasive use in the business world may affect federal laws aimed at protecting workers from employment discrimination. Social media certainly can be helpful at work for marketing to clients and even recruiting new workers. More than three-fourths of companies in a recent survey actually use social network sites to look for new hires; this is a huge increase from just 34 percent about five years ago.

However, employers also can use social media to discriminate against job seekers on the basis of age, gender and even race or ethnicity. In order to prevent this problem, a company may benefit from using a third party to do social media background checks. Companies also would be wise to take care that they don't use the information they find on employees' social media pages to harass them in the workplace.

It is unlawful for companies in California to treat certain employees or groups of employees differently from others based on protected classes. If an employee can furnish proof that he or she has been the victim of workplace discrimination in our state, he or she can file a claim against that employer, seeking damages. The mistreated worker may be awarded back pay or even be reinstated in a job as a result of a successfully litigated suit.

Source: insidecounsel.com, "Social media use at work raises employment discrimination concerns", Amanda Ciccatelli, March 24, 2014

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