Social Media Now in Mainstream of Business Practices, SHRM Tells EEOC

Mar 12, 2014

Employment lawyer says employers are constantly refining use of social media as tool in the workplace

WASHINGTON — In a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) hearing today scheduled to better understand the legal implications of social media in the workplace, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) provided an overview of how employers are incorporating social media into workplace culture and recruiting efforts and also described what constitutes lawful versus unlawful monitoring.

Jonathan SegalSpeaking on behalf of the more than 275,000-member SHRM, Jonathan Segal, an employment lawyer and SHRM member, said, “To ignore social media today is like ignoring email 20 years ago. Social media is no longer cutting-edge; it is now mainstream.”

Full testimony is available here.

Segal, who is a partner at Duane Morris LLP, a law firm with more than 700 attorneys in offices globally, writes a blog for his company and is an active Twitter user. He is the former state legislative director for Pennsylvania SHRM.

“The growth of social media has significantly changed the way people communicate at home and at work,” he said, citing employee engagement, knowledge sharing, marketing and crisis management as areas in which employers are integrating social media into the workplace.

Promoting job openings is one of social media’s many uses in the workplace. But Segal said, “I do not know of any employers who rely solely on social media to recruit. In fact, most consider it a best practice to diversify recruiting tools in order to reach potential talent.”

He also addressed privacy concerns associated with the use of social media in screening job candidates.

“When employers use social media and online searches to screen candidates, they may learn information about a candidate’s protected group,” Segal said. “But the fact that the employer may learn information about a candidate’s protected group status or other information — regardless of whether it is learned on social media or through a phone or face-to-face interview — does not mean the employer will use it.”

Employers who have used social networking sites and online searches to screen candidates are increasingly adopting policies that define the use of such techniques, he said. The percentage of HR professionals reporting no organizational policies on the use of social media sites for screening dropped from 72 percent in 2008 to 57 percent in 2013.

Segal explained that employers who utilize social media channels in recruiting should consider: when it is done, what is looked at, who is doing the looking, and what is and is not considered in the decision-making process.

“As with other background checks, it is not the ‘looking’ that is the legal issue. The legal issue is what the employer does, or does not do, with what it discovers,” he said.

SHRM research also showed that organizations planned to increase their overall social media use.

“Because social media engagement is a relatively new territory for both employers and employees, we are constantly refining how these tools should and should not operate in the workplace,” Segal said as part of his closing comments. “Organizations are embracing social media for business use because the return on investment is getting clearer.”

MEDIA: For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Kate Kennedy at and 703-535-6260 or at 703-535-6072.

SHRM research on the use of social media is available here.

About the Society for Human Resource Management

Founded in 1948, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest HR membership organization devoted to human resource management. Representing more than 275,000 members in over 160 countries, the Society is the leading provider of resources to serve the needs of HR professionals and advance the professional practice of human resource management. SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China, India and United Arab Emirates. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @SHRMPress.


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