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Will “ban the box” work?

22 Sep

First of all, what is the box? Traditionally, it was a question on job applications that asked job seekers to divulge whether they've been convicted of a crime. Human resources managers should be familiar with the "ban the box" movement, its impact on employee management and activities with regard to both grassroots organizations and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The National Employment Law Project, a public policy research group, released a resource guide in July 2014 that explains how many individuals are affected by criminal histories during the job application process. In 2011, there is an estimated 65 million U.S. job seekers with records that would show up when an employer ran a criminal background check. At the same time, 92 percent of employers in an EEOC survey indicated they perform these background checks on all or a portion of the job seekers who apply for positions within their companies. Without question, the impact of criminal history is far reaching. Yet, the main goal in scrutinizing applicants in this manner is to mitigate risk in the workplace, the EEOC explained. For instance, employers want to avoid incidents involving fraud, theft and violence.

As of September 2014, there are 13 states that have comprehensive "ban the box" policies, while nearly 70 cities have implemented the change in hiring policy. According to the EEOC, a criminal record is not a protected status under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which seeks to prevent and penalize discrimination based on gender, race, religion and national origin. This may be part of the reason why a growing number of states, municipalities and counties are banning the box on job applications, meaning employers can directly ask about past criminal conduct.

What does it mean for employers?
Human resources managers and business owners need to understand the regulations established by their state and local governments. For example, legislation in Colorado only impacts public employers, and they need to be able to clearly identify a link between a conviction and the job the applicant is seeking. If there's no connection, then the employer can't use the conviction as a screening mechanism. In addition, arrests and expunged criminal records should be ignored during the hiring process as well. Meanwhile, the Illinois statute applies to private and public employers with 15 or more employees, but there are few other stipulations, meaning there aren't limits on screening based on time or record. In both states, however, business owners can't conduct a criminal background search until the person is provided a conditional offer of employment, and, in Illinois, until the applicant reaches the interview stage.

The EEOC also advocates for judicious hiring policies in order to give applicants with a criminal history a fair chance at employment. In other words, it's recommended that employers weigh the degree of seriousness of past criminality, conduct since the offense and whether the behavior would prevent the individual from performing the sought-after role.

Employers should also keep disparate treatment discrimination in mind during the hiring process, the EEOC wrote. In reality, African American and Hispanic people in the U.S. are arrested at much higher rates than their white counterparts. As a result, many employers – often unintentionally – have workforces that are not representative of the applicant community, which is indirectly due to the racial backgrounds of job seekers. Human resources software can help employers identify this kind of inequality, allowing them to put fair hiring policies in place.

What does it mean for convicted criminals?
While arrests don't necessarily equate with wrongdoing, convictions usually provide solid proof of misconduct, the EEOC explained. However, different states have specific policies with the way employers can use criminal history to screen applicants. Much like business owners must educate themselves, convicted criminals must also be aware of the legislation in their particular region as it pertains to their employment opportunities. For instance, the Minnesota regulations prohibit employers from using misdemeanors that included no jail time as the basis for evaluating a job seeker.

However, it's not a bad idea for job seekers with a conviction record to be prepared to answer questions about their criminal history during the job interview. Depending on the company and industry, the employer may be forthright in asking for an explanation of past behaviors and whether it will affect the person's job performance.

What industries are exempt from this?
Not everyone is expected to abide by the "ban the box" legislation. There are federal mandates that explicitly limit access to certain jobs based on a specific criminal conviction within the past 10 years, such as an airport security screener. Other industries that have their own hiring policies include federal law enforcement, child care workers in national government positions, banking, insurance, defense contractors and some health care positions.

Why are there still so many huge employment law settlements?

15 Sep

Employment lawsuit settlements can result in heavy financial penalties. Payments run the gamut between tens of thousands of dollars to upwards of $100 million. Each organization should realize effective human resources planning involves providing staff with access to employment law training. In doing so, businesses can avoid financially damaging lawsuits that can have a lasting impact on a company's viability.

The biggest payouts tend to grab the biggest headlines, especially when they involve household-name corporations. Still, there have been more than 10 employment law settlement lawsuits brought against various companies since August 28, 2014, raising a number of questions.

Haven't employers learned the rules yet?
For instance, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently brought a lawsuit against a Popeye's Chicken franchise owner in Texas, JD Supra explained. The franchisee of the fried chicken chain consented to pay $25,000 for allegedly discriminating against an applicant on the basis of a disability. In this case, the job seeker was HIV-positive and explained his condition during an interview, after which he was told he couldn't be hired due to his medical situation. JD Supra explained the Food and Drug Administration doesn't list HIV as a restricted condition under its Food Code.

In another case, the EEOC brought a lawsuit against four farms in Hawaii owned by the California-based company Global Horizons on the grounds that they discriminated against 500 Thai workers. Retaliation charges were also raised. The $2.4-million settlement came about as result of several violations, including delayed payment for work performed, lack of food and water, and unsuitable living conditions.

Is lack of training to blame or lack of followup on the training?
Considering the heavy cost of violating labor laws, it would seem that most companies would go out of their way to ensure their staff, especially those in charge of hiring or dismissal, understand the rules. In the Popeye's Chicken case, for instance, EEOC trial attorney Joel Clark explained the Americans with Disabilities Act aims to prevent employers from making hasty decisions, especially when considering an applicant for a position. When companies unknowingly violate the law, the penalties are generally less harsh than those that actively ignore the rules, which is likely a contributing factor for why Global Horizons was forced to pay millions of dollars in fines.

In response to the ADA violation, Popeye's initiated training for all employees in a managerial position, including supervisors and human resources staff. Materials provided by the EEOC seek to give workers a deeper understanding of what's expected of them when they hire workers. Similarly, farm labor contractors at the Global Horizons facilities will have to communicate compliance policies to all staff, while corporate trainers will be responsible for educating on Title VII procedures.

From these cases, the problem seems to be a lack of preparation on the part of employers in providing their managers in charge of hiring and employee policies with requisite training. The Society of Human Resources Management also explained federal training isn't mandatory for all employers across the board, and some states have unique requirements that business owners need to understand. Most companies are required to post notices in public spaces that clearly state federal workplace policies, but it then becomes the employees' responsibility to understand their rights. At the same time, there are certain jobs in the public sector related to safety that demand Occupational Safety & Health Administration training. However, the rules aren't entirely uniform, leaving some employers at risk of violating them.

What's the trend now?
An infographic developed by the human resources news site explores the various priorities that businesses are focusing on to ensure their managerial staff are informed of compliance standards. The No. 1 topic is sexual harassment training, while discrimination education is second on employers' lists. The focus on these points aligns with many of the trends in EEOC lawsuits, which heavily reflect discrimination and harassment issues in the workplace.

Another way employers can prepare leaders to handle employment law regulations is through EEOC annual executive leadership conferences. While employees must pay for admittance to these meetings, they specifically address the requirements most companies have in keeping their senior-level staff up to date with compliance standards before a lawsuit occurs. The EEOC also provides free training sessions on a limited basis.

What should companies do about Affirmative Action plans?

11 Sep

In a variety of industries, human resources managers are responsible for developing a management tool to ensure they're meeting requirements for Affirmative Action plans. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Human Resources website, the main reason that an employer establishes an affirmative action plan is to prevent discrimination on the grounds of gender, race and ethnicity in the workplace. Business owners often achieve this goal by using human resources solutions that allow them to run a detailed analysis of the talent pool and existing workforce to see if there's any discrepancy in proportions, which may reflect discriminatory hiring practices. 

Affirmative Action plans are comprised of detailed policies, practices and procedures that companies establish ahead of recruitment processes. In essence, these strategies are designed to give all applicants an equal opportunity to access employment, as well as provide uniform payment regardless of race and gender.

However, there are those who would argue the U.S. has entered a post-racial era in which bias and prejudice don't play as much of a role in workplace decisions as in previous decades.

Are they still needed?
Much has changed since the concept of affirmative action first entered the national lexicon. The Heritage Foundation wrote that former President John F. Kennedy was the first to use the phrase in 1961 as he explained the reach Executive Order 10925 would have on the American workforce. The idea bled into the threads of the civil rights movements during the early '60s, culminating with the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This piece of legislation made discriminatory practices in the workplace illegal.

As of 2011, African American employees made up roughly 11.6 percent of the total labor force, which includes individuals employed or seeking work, the U.S. Department of Labor wrote. This figure reflects a gradual increase in representation of African Americans in the U.S. workforce, up from 10.9 percent in 1991.

On the other hand, unemployment rates among African Americans is significantly higher compared to their white counterparts. Respectively, the difference was 15.8 percent and 7.9 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, Hispanic Americans hovered in the middle with an 11.5 percent jobless rate.

At the same time, the recent unrest in Ferguson, Missouri over the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a member of the police department called attention to the realities in many workplaces. The Ferguson Police Department is comprised of mainly white officers, while the town has a large African American community. According to HR Unlimited Inc., the police department is 0.6 percent African American, which signals a need for affirmative action planning. However, the Ferguson case isn't necessarily reflective of all workplaces, and each employer must look at diversity statistics to get a fuller understanding of whether an affirmative action plan is required.

Are they effective?
Using the example of police departments, HR Unlimited Inc. cited the fact that organizations with affirmative action plans have been able to foster more representative payrolls. Between 1983 and 1992, those with a plan in place see minority officers composing upwards of 20 percent of officers in local departments.

In addition, Forbes highlighted the fact that the gender pay gap is beginning to shrink. Citing a PayScale study, there's less than a 2 percent disparity in pay among male and female millennial workers, which is one of the largest generations to enter the labor market. Both men and women exhibit a lack of enthusiasm for how much they're getting paid, according to a 2013 Gallup poll. Just 24 percent of women and 32 percent of men are satisfied by their paychecks, leaving the majority of employees unhappy with their current remuneration.

Equal payment is just one aspect of affirmative action plans, but it can play a significant role in job satisfaction and the perception of fair treatment. When individuals performing the same work are compensated differently, staff may begin to question hiring practices, especially among people of different genders or ethnic backgrounds. Still, there's no guarantee an affirmative action plan will work as intended.

Can they have a negative impact on workers?
While affirmative action plans aim to level the playing field among applicants and employees, not everyone will look at them the same way. In fact, human resources news source theHRDIRECTOR explained employees who were viewed as beneficiaries of the action plans were stigmatized as less fit for the job. They can also be seen more as competition than as colleagues, resulting in lower performance scores on employee peer evaluations. What's more, other members of the workforce may believe a minority worker was hired solely on the basis of the company meeting a quota for diversity.

Any effective affirmative action plan must take stereotypes and stigmas into consideration when it's implemented. Human resources managers must take employee engagement seriously when new hires are brought on board as a result of an action plan. While businesses have made progress toward equal opportunity, disparities still exist that may raise the need for an affirmative action policy.

HR executives fear additional federal regulations

11 Aug

A recent study by Littler Mendelson showed that although those in charge of human resource management remain concerned about the Affordable Care Act, their biggest fear has now become increased regulations by the federal government.

According to HR Morning, some of these fears might be due to the added regulations this year having to do with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), along with increased monitoring of employee/contractor misclassification.

In a separate survey by Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. reported by Business Insurance, the same fears of regulation cropped up, although 63 percent of respondents were also concerned about the rising cost of health care benefits programs.

How to deal with the FMLA
The fears that a government agent will perform an audit of a company's compliance with FMLA rules are well-founded, according to HR Benefits Alert. The federal government has recently grown much more nit-picky about what it considers a violation of the FMLA.

However, companies can prepare themselves by knowing in advance what the feds have begun looking for in particular. Typically, what happens is a company will mistakenly do something it believes is unrelated to the FMLA, and the federal government, upon auditing the company, will find a connection. In one case, a company would fire employees who did not fill out their medical histories in a timely way. However, the medical histories included questions that were not considered permissible to ask in accordance with FMLA rules.

In another case, a company failed to provide someone with notification of her FMLA rights after asking for leave to take care of a very ill child. Additionally, the company fired the woman for taking too much time off, even though this leave was permissible under FMLA. In a separate example, a company fulfilled an FMLA request to take leave, then failed to return the employee to his job because he wasn't told he needed to complete a fitness-for-duty medical exam in order to come back to work.

Finally, one company failed to allow an FMLA request to pass because the worker was standing in loco parentis, meaning she was acting in the place of a parent. When a woman was fired for taking time off to take care of her niece, she was acting in place of a parent, but her FMLA request was denied.

It is likely the above companies did not intentionally try to game the rules, but even simple oversights can cause costly lawsuits. It is always more effective to pay attention to a company's employee management system to ensure compliance and prevent problems before they happen. Whatever human resource solution a company uses, it must ensure these are compliant with the most recent interpretations of the federal law.

Telecommuting now a part of reasonable accommodation

8 Aug

A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has recently expanded the number of companies that must offer telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation to employees who otherwise wouldn't be able to work from the office, according to Talent Management.

A suit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Ford Motor Company, argued that in the case of workers who are otherwise able to work from home in a fully-functional capacity but who cannot work at the office much of the time because of medical or other conditions, companies should allow those employees to work from home as part of the government's ruling on reasonable accommodation.

According to the ruling, "the 'workplace' is anywhere that an employee can perform her job duties," Talent Management reported.

Working from home as an option
Those in a position for recruiting should keep in mind that telecommuting may become much more prevalent now, and making the option available for everyone may be a good idea. A study by Staples indicated that 65 percent of employers who permitted their employees to work from home reported their employees were happier. Thirty-three percent also reported there were fewer cases of absenteeism.

"Not only does telecommuting lead to a happier workforce, it's also a critical benefit to have from a recruiting standpoint," said Paul Mullen, vice president of technology solutions for Staples Advantage. "Employers who are flexible and support their staff with the tools they need to telecommute have a definite recruiting advantage."

Setting up a telecommuting system for the office could mean integrating more employee self-service programs in the workplace, as well as using technology such as cloud-based computing software to allow easy access to work wherever a person may be doing business.

Managing whistleblowers in the company

23 Jul

Whistleblowing is a serious concern for many businesses and finding a way to manage any occurrences can be difficult. According to Simply-Communicate, one of the best ways a business can protect itself from whistleblowers is by building the best company culture possible.

A report from the National Business Ethics (NBE) Survey, 45 percent of employees in 2011 admitted to viewing misconduct at work. From those who saw misconduct, 65 percent of respondents said they reported the bad behavior they witnessed. The report also found that 1 in 5 employees who reported misconduct felt they went through some form of retaliation.

With 42 percent of respondents saying their workplace environment has weak ethical culture, businesses have to find ways to improve corporate culture.

What exactly is a whistleblower?
Whistleblowers are oftentimes known as employees who complain about company misconduct for reasons connected to health or safety violations, shareholder fraud or financial mismanagement, legal site Nolo Press reported. Typically, employees who don't engage with the initial complaint are titled protected whistleblowers, which are protected by several state and federal laws.

Daniel Goleman, an author, psychologist and journalist, explained the most common reaction to whistleblowing is a worker getting dropped from the company through either transfers or being fired, Simply-Communicate reported. Goleman added that for government and private industry workers, 80 percent of whistleblowers "suffer immensely."

"The paradox of this is that the whistleblower is actually highly loyal to the organization," said Goleman, according to the source. "He/she is not blowing the whistle because they want to get someone, but because they feel the basic mission, the higher ideal is getting violated and they can't live with that. Their own ethics drive them to tell the truth. The organization, paradoxically feels betrayed, angry and retaliates."

How retaliating can harm business operations
When companies retaliate against whistleblowers, retention rates are severely damaged and top performers will realize how quickly businesses can turn their backs on workers, the source reported. The NBE survey also found that 7 out of 10 employees who suffered retaliation planned to quit their job within five years.

Businesses should always keep the anonymity of the whistleblower to avoid any sort of retaliation claim, the New Hampshire Business Review reported. When companies are oblivious to the whistleblower, the less likely any lawsuit can be instigated.

Instead, companies should keep open and clear communication between the worker and not push the idea too much to keep the report confidential. According to the source, businesses should let the employee know both parties remaining quiet about the situation will be best for everyone and that the complaint is being addressed.

Whistleblowers often notify the government because they believe their first report didn't receive enough attention and to protect themselves from any sort of retaliation. According to the source, businesses shouldn't keep employees from contacting the government when they are making a report as it could be reported in a claims case.

"All of these people feel they are loyal and that they are doing what they should be doing," said Jim Lukaszewski, a crisis communication consultant, according to Simply-Communicate. "They believe they are saving the company from further damage. However, from the standpoint of management, they are considered to be disgruntled employees."

Companies have a responsibility to avoid retaliation and to resolve the issues with the initial report.

The Importance of Creating an Equal Opportunity Work Environment

17 Jul

Approximately 50 years ago, Title VII was created as a federal law that prohibits workplace harassment and discrimination with all private employers, state, local and federal governments, and education institutions, Business Legal Resources reported.

The law prevents employers to discriminate against employees because of race, color, national origin, religion and sex. In the half-century since the law was created, many businesses are still under pressure to make sure they follow all the correct hiring, firing and recruitment processes that abide the federal regulation.

Since there are many more opportunities for employees to take legal action against a company for not being an equal opportunity employer, it's critical for human resources departments to ensure their firms are providing fair opportunities for everyone.

According to XpertHR, many businesses understand the importance of being an equal opportunity employer, but failing to stop discrimination in the workplace can lead to higher employee turnover and absenteeism rates, lower morale, reduced productivity and higher insurance premiums and defense costs.

Affirmative Action in Recruiting
Human resources departments have to understand that affirmative action in company recruiting policies are more important than ever. According to the Houston Chronicle, the whole purpose of affirmative action is to create a more diverse group and in the recruiting process, it will help the pool of qualified candidates grow larger.

Businesses can reach out to more qualified candidates by reaching out to specific programs designed to attract women and minority workers, the source reported. There are many routes employers can take to ensure their companies are being completely fair and balanced in their recruitment process.

Shift in Employment Practices
In the last 50 years, there have been major shifts in employment practices with affirmative action. According to Northern Illinois University College of Law's "Regulating Appearance in the Workplace," in the last several years, the amount of appearance-based discrimination claims has had a significant increase.

These appearance lawsuits have come from claims about dress codes, makeup, body weight, body art and grooming, the source reported. Since the federal law first started, now more employers are being cautious about age discrimination or disability claims.

The risk of litigation is possible for many companies and that's why human resources departments have to stay up to date with the latest regulations and federal laws to not only protect the business, but their employees as well.

Rescinding Job Offers: When Is It Legal? And What Does HR Need to Know?

9 Jul

The hiring process doesn't stop when a company asks a job seeker to be on the payroll. Sometimes, there are issues that pop up after an offer is extended and recruiting for the job needs to start once more. Even the most experienced HR professionals have had to null and void a job offer to a candidate. There are many reasons why job offers have to be rescinded – here are just a few:

  • The company's corporate health is poor and cannot take on another employee
  • The business must reorganize its employment structures
  • The department's budget is cut 
  • The candidate acts inappropriately after the company has already extended an offer of employment
  • The job seeker doesn't pass the background test 

According to CIO, rescinding job offers increased in commonality during the recession, but it can still come as a surprise to many job seekers. HR professionals must be careful with how they handle taking back an offer of employment.

Employee management is as important at the end of the talent acquisition process as when new hires officially become part of the organization. HR professionals need to ensure they are following the proper procedures – both the company's own policies and the state's – to act appropriately during these situations. 

What are the Legalities Involved? 
HR professionals know they have to walk a fine line when it comes to rescinding job offers, but taking back an offer of employment is considered acceptable in certain circumstances. An article in Media Bistro noted that offers are simply offers and are considered to be an offer of employment "at will" in most circumstances. Because of this, it is legal to rescind most job offers.

The Ohio State Bar Association defines "employment at will" to mean "that, unless you agree otherwise with your employer, either you or your employer may terminate the employment relationship at any time for any reason that does not contradict the law." The Center for Career and Professional Development at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, an institute of higher education in New York, noted each state has its own laws regarding the legality of rescinding job offers when they have been accepted, but most courts have accepted the concept of employment at will.

However, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, an offer of employment is often seen to be an official promise of a job, and this has been used in court by candidates with rescinded job offers to win their cases. Cases have been found in favor of job candidates under the legal doctrine of promissory estoppel, which "supports a harmed party in enforcing such promises made." A court can also side with the plaintiff if it finds there was a breach of contract because the employment contract was signed by the involved parties.

According to HR news site HC Online, discrimination and misrepresentation of the company and/or position can also be brought up in court by candidates. SHRM recommended HR professionals only rescind an offer of employment after legal counsel has looked over the matter.

When Is Rescinding Job Offers Acceptable?
It is sometimes acceptable for HR professionals and their employers to rescind job offers. Internal issues like company reorganization and budget cuts can factor into whether the offered job is even available anymore, but HC Online noted external elements, such as if the candidate lied on his or her application, can come into play as well. Even the candidate's behavior and etiquette can end up impacting whether her or she will still have an offer of employment.

For example, Inc. magazine reported that a journalist wrote on his blog that he received an offer of employment at a newspaper. Although his editor assured him the post was acceptable, he had used the business's logo without permission and quoted the offer letter, both of which the newspaper said was not allowed. An HR expert noted that the company may be partly at fault in this situation, because it may not have communicated that the newspaper wanted to announce the job offer or that the candidate would be on probation.

What Happens When the Worker Already Left His or Her Job?
Yet one of the biggest issues with rescinding job offers is the problem of whether the candidate offered his or her previous employer with a notice of intent to leave his or her job because the job seeker accepted the new job in good faith. There have been court cases regarding this. SHRM noted some have been won on the grounds of promissory estoppel, and HC Online noted a large banking organization was found liable for a worker quitting his or her former job to work at the company and then having to rescind the offer of employment.

HR professionals must consider the potential of having to take back the employment offer. U.S. News suggested candidates provide a written acceptance letter and don't give notice of intent to leave to their current employers until there is confirmation of employment. HR professionals may want to ask candidates for a written acceptance letter, communicate about acceptable behavior during the probation period and recommend they don't leave their jobs or make any sudden life changes until they have confirmation they are officially starting on the job.

What Employers Can Do About Self-Destruct Text Messaging Apps in the Workplace

23 Jun

It is becoming easier than ever for people to use their smartphones and tablets to document discussions in the workplace. Employers are starting to encounter issues with mobile devices in regard to workers using messaging apps that cause texts sent through them to automatically delete after a set time limit. Companies can make policies stating what can and cannot be sent through mobile devices in the workplace, and establish procedures for what to do if issues do occur. In fact, it might be a good employee management strategy for employers to encourage workers not to use their own devices at work, as it can be legally and ethically risky for an employer to ask to see workers' personal devices to look at text messages.

Know Where the Danger Is
There are numerous apps on the market that automatically cause messages sent through them to self-destruct. Snapchat may be the most well-known, but, according to The Business Journals, there is a similar app called TigerText that even allows users to send each other cloud storage files. The app encrypts the messages, which expire after a set amount of time. Technology news source Gigaom reported another app, Privatext, also uses encryption to keep messages private, and these texts or pictures automatically delete after a period of time even if they aren't read. 

Employers should also be aware that the latest operating system from Apple – iOS 8 – will have a self-destruction function for pictures and video messages as well, according to CNN. These files can self-destruct in just a few minutes, which Apple says is meant to keep space open on the devices.

Deleted Text Messages Aren't the End
It's true that text messages have been traditionally hard to bring back once they have been deleted, but that's not always the case anymore, according to CIO. Paul Luehr, who has worked as a federal prosecutor and the supervisor of the Federal Trade Commission's Internet fraud program, told CIO in certain situations forensics experts can retrieve deleted messages. Luehr even said his firm just had a case where they recovered 8,000 text messages – more than a year's worth of messages – and that it's now common for texts to be part of court cases. Luehr noted it is all about the app's software and the phone models involved in the situation.

For example, during the examination into allegations that Miami Dolphins player Richie Incognito bullied one of his teammates, a National Football League investigator was able to uncover deleted text messages between the players. 

Employers should establish policies prohibiting workers from using these apps in the workplace in regards to work-related files. According to Luehr, it can be costly for hire mobile forensic investigators to dig through devices and messages looking for evidence to an investigation. It is always better for employers to be proactive at preventing issues in the workplace rather than reactive when a situation occurs. 

What HR Reps Should Remember When Using Social Media for Recruiting

17 Jun

Social media is now a go-to recruiting strategy for HR representatives. If an HR professional or company isn't on social media, it can mean that person or business is missing out on networking with others in their industry and finding great talent.

When it comes to hiring top performers, HR professionals know they have to use their resources effectively and go to where those talented workers are online. According to an infographic by, 93 percent of businesses turned to LinkedIn as part of their recruiting strategies in 2012, a significant increase from only 87 percent and 78 percent that did so in 2011 and 2010 respectively. So many companies are using online social networking sites to hire candidates because scoping out candidates is more efficient in terms of time and money than other types of recruiting platforms. The infographic noted 20 percent of companies consider recruiting new hires from social media to take less time to bring in new hires than other forms of hiring, and 42 percent have seen their quality of hires improve just by using social media as part of their recruiting.

Yet HR professionals must always be aware of the legal risks associated with recruiting workers on social media. Essentially, HR representatives should be conscientious of what they should and shouldn't do when hiring employees through social media job postings and tools. 

Beware of the Legal Risks
According to Human Resource Executive (HRE) Online, there are legal risks with not having a policy in place for using social media during recruiting. HR departments need to have social media procedures or put their businesses at risk of legal consequences if HR professionals gain information they shouldn't have because they are recruiting through social media.

An attorney in Boston gave HRE Online the example of an HR professional finding out a candidate's sexual orientation from looking the person up on social media. The HR representative wouldn't have received this information through other methods, and if the company eventually hired another person for the position, there is the risk that the original candidate can come back stating he or she was discriminated against because of his or her sexual orientation just because HR professionals were using social media.

It should be noted that sometimes the law isn't always up to date. HR professionals must be aware that there are new social media apps coming out every day, so the law can be behind in what is truly happening on social media, according to Business 2 Community. This means that while HR professionals may be in compliance with social media and employment legislation at the present, they may be putting themselves at risk of a lawsuit if candidates or employees question how they use social media. According to Business 2 Community, HR professionals shouldn't utilize social media as a recruiting strategy without first considering the legal risks.

Adopt Social Media Recruiting Best Practices
The best way to protect the business legally and still recruit the most talented new hires is to always use certain best practices. Business 2 Community advised HR professionals to never ask candidates or workers for their personal social media information. Not only can this represent legal risks, but it can damage the company's reputation.

HR professionals should also treat social media as they would any other channel in which they would meet candidates. Remaining respectful and professional during communications is essential for applicants to get a good impression of the company and feel as if they are truly being recruited, not part of a spamming scheme. 

Another important consideration is to have an overarching policy regarding social media recruitment. HRE Online noted that HR departments need to have one so every HR professional understands what they can and cannot do, which can make a difference to how the company remains in compliance with employment and privacy laws. 

There are many other best practices out there HR professionals can utilize to optimize their social media recruiting without putting themselves in legal binds. These best practices continue to evolve, but there is one that doesn't: networking with peers. HR representatives should consider building relationships with other HR professionals to gain more knowledge of what does and doesn't work when recruiting through social media. Sometimes, sharing experiences with colleagues can help HR professionals learn new tips and best practices they would not have otherwise come into contact with.

Consider the Latest Tools
Lastly, using some of the latest social media tools can help HR professionals improve their social media recruiting. According to, Social Recruitment Monitor is a free tool that provides HR professionals with measurements on retweets and video views, just to name a few. Another article noted Quora is a good forum to answer questions from potential candidates, giving recruiters an inside look into their expertise and how certain candidates think and their expertise. 

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