Many employers check an individual's social media history, both during the recruitment stage and when the employment relationship is underway. However, there can be various employment law implications associated with such snooping, for example:
- During the recruitment selection process, checking out the candidates' online profile will probably mean that extra information about their individual characteristics becomes known (for example, about their religious views, their sexual orientation or the fact they may have a disability). If the candidate is then not selected for the role, they might argue that this is discriminatory as their protected characteristics played a part in the employer's decision-making.
- If an employer processes an individual's personal data as part of its social media review, the employer must ensure that it is complying with all the data protection requirements.
- Individuals may view such checks as an invasion of their private life and could try and claim that their human rights have been violated. Whilst legal challenges of this nature often fail (as when an individual posts something on social media they usually cannot then expect that it remains private), it can still damage employee relations.
So, employers who want to snoop on social media should ensure that they act reasonably, have a comprehensive social media policy in place to manage employee expectations and ensure that appropriate monitoring and processing rights are in place.
A company in Texas posted an image of a job applicant wearing a swimsuit as an example of how not to apply for a job. Marketing company Kickass Masterminds posted an Instagram slide - since removed - of applicant Emily Clow, along with advice on professionalism. "Do not share your social media with a potential employer if this is the kind of content on it," it said. Ms Clow applied for a marketing role with the firm as "it was a company founded by women, seemed to support women in business and worked with start-ups". But she was shocked by the public shaming. The company's post went on: "I am looking for a professional marketer - not a bikini model.