As an attorney that frequently speaks on social media, online law, and other techy legal issues, I get asked by employers what they can and can’t do as far as investigating applicants online.  Unfortunately, the answer really varies on the specific circumstances.  However, in most cases, employers should follow at least the following basic rules:

  1. Don’t do anything online that you can’t do offline.  For instance, do not use information you find online to discriminate against a potential new hire.  If you cannot discriminate against someone due to having children offline, you can’t research whether they have children online.
  2. You may be required to tell individuals where you get information about them during the interview process.  If you are going to hire a company to research online sources to find out more about applicants, check with your attorney to determine if you must reveal this under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
  3. After hire, make sure you clearly state what you expect from employees both on and off the job regarding the use of social media.  For instance, do you need to worry about complying with the FTC endorsement rules (i.e. if your employee says good things about you do the disclose the employment status)?

Depending on the number of employees you have and the type of business you have, you may need to have a policy on both using social media in the hiring process and after hire.  If you are hiring employees, or have employees and haven’t thought about whether you need a policy before this, contact me, your Denver Small Business Lawyer today to find out if you need one today.