Social media in hiring: disparate impact

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In my first discussion of the legal implications of using social media in hiring, I addressed the relevance of the site’s Terms of Service. Whether we are utilizing the site to enhance our brand as an employer, advertise our open positions, hunt for passive candidates, or screen active ones, knowing the site’s Terms of Service is a first legal implication.

A second legal concern for the use of social media in hiring centers around the possibility of disparate impact, especially from our advertising of open positions. “Disparate impact” is the legal phrase used to refer to a seemingly neutral practice, such as advertising on a social networking site, that has a substantial adverse impact on a Title VII protected class.

The concern here is that advertising or recruiting on a single social media site could inadvertently skew what audience you reach. For example, here are some of the demographic trends for social networking sites right now.

  • Twitter.com – Pew Research Center reports that 8% of all internet users access twitter.com. African American and Hispanic/Latino users are more than twice as likely as white internet users to use twitter.
  • Facebook.com – O’Reilly Media reports that in the US active facebook users are most likely to be in the 18-25 year age group. However, 55-59, 60-65, and 45-54 are the top three age groups trending upward as active facebook users.
  • LinkedIn.com – Ignite reports that worldwide trends for linkedin members are 60% male and 40% female.
  • MySpace.com – Ignite also reports that myspace members are largely in the US, where members are 62% female and 38% male.

For this reason, we have taken several intentional steps to diversify the audiences we reach through the internet.

  1. Any open position that we’re advertising will be posted first on our own website. It is equally available to any internet user, without requiring a registration or a membership.
  2. Our website-advertised openings are also automatically harvested by some of the job aggregating sites, such as indeed.com. These sites are truly accessible for any internet user.
  3. If we are advertising a particular search on a social media site such as LinkedIn, we try to also post it on Twitter and/or Facebook where it reaches a different audience.

Yes, it takes a little more effort to ensure that our advertised openings are posted on multiple kinds of sites. Yet we find it’s well worth the effort for fair and effective recruiting!

Coming next: Social Media and Disparate Treatment

Note: These reflections are not to be construed as direct legal advice from an attorney. If you have questions or concerns regarding risks of disparate impact in using social media for hiring, we recommend that you consult your business counsel.

Republished with permission (including modest content and format edits). Originally published by Elyse on our employer blog in 2010.

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