#WorkingSocial for Job Seekers: Before You Go Social

Social media has become an essential tool for job seekers. Whether you are using social media to look for a job, optimizing your social media profiles for the job search or using social media in the workplace, there are rules and laws that apply. Be sure to stay up to date on how to effectively use social media, as well as how employers can legally use it to make hiring and firing decisions. Here are some things you need to know before using social media to search for a job:

Know Your Rights: From National Labor Relations Rulings to the First Amendment. Private and non-profit employees are protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) which governs employee social media use in the workplace. The act protects concerted activity: the right of employees to discuss wages, terms of employment and working conditions. A private or non-profit employee can’t be fired or disciplined for posting on social media if the post falls under concerted activity. Further, an employer restricting social media use in the workplace may be restricting an employee’s right to discuss concerted activity.

Public employees are not protected by the National Labor Relations Act. Instead, the First Amendment protects social and political posts public employees make off duty, outside of their official capacity and not directly related to the workplace. If you publicly gripe about your workplace or employer, these posts are not protected. Additionally, posts of public concern must not outweigh a public employer’s ability to effectively and efficiently fulfill its responsibility to the public.

Legal and Illegal Ways Businesses Use Social Media to Screen Employees. Ninety-two percent of businesses say they use social media for recruiting and 90 percent say placement starts with a social media search by a hiring manager. One third of employers said they rejected an applicant due to something posted on the applicant’s social media site. The most common posts that sway employers away from job candidates are posts that are sexual in nature or make any mention of illicit drug use. While hiring managers can make decisions based on social media posts, they cannot make a hiring decision based on protected class information. No protected class information (race, age, religion, gender, etc.) obtained through social media can be used in the hiring process.

Responding to Employer Requests for Passwords. In the United States, approximately 12 states have adopted laws protecting employees from having to give an employer their social media passwords (Idaho is not one of these states). If an employer or hiring manager asks for your social media password, direct them to a professional site such as LinkedIn, and explain your other sites are for your personal, private use. Also, direct them to Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Practices which states it is against policy to solicit or share a Facebook password.

Double Check Those Privacy Settings. Become familiar with privacy settings on all social media platforms. Make sure you know who can see your posts. On Facebook, profile photos are always public. Since posts from other people on your timeline are often the most damaging, update your settings so you must approve tagged posts before they are posted to your timeline. Audit your friend list and eliminate people you don’t know.

Be Clear About Account Ownership. Protect and retain ownership of your personal social media accounts when going into a new job and keep your personal and your professional social media accounts separate from one another. If you set up a system for your employer, use a company email address, make sure your employer has copies of all the user identification and password information and adhere to your company’s social media policy.

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The information contained in this blog is intended as educational and is not intended or offered as legal advice. Information for this article was compiled from multiple sources, including Idaho Department of Labor workshops on using social media to look for work with speakers Lisa McGrath, new media attorney, and Justin Foster, social media business consultant.

Follow the Idaho Department of Labor on Twitter @Idahojob and Facebook Idaho Department of Labor. You also can join the agency’s LinkedIn group.