Employment Law, Featured

Facebook & Co.

Employers are becoming increasingly savvy about using the internet to profile prospective employees.  This is not really surprising given the amount of time and effort they have to put in to finding the right candidate for the job.

What is surprising is, though, how careless candidates have become with publishing potentially damaging information about themselves. To be clear: we are talking about young people here, at the most 30 years of age.  This generation has a completely different understanding of what information is private, and also of what a job (and job security) means for them.  Which in itself is puzzling given that the global recession has clearly shown that hardly any jobs are safe these days. But then again, for a generation who has grown up in a time where all what is certain is change, who can blame them for looking at everything as being transient?

Information on facebook or any other networking site can be used by employers to filter candidates, or, even more so, to dismiss employees.  Regarding recruitment, Freehills Australia has reminded employers to be carefull not to discriminate anyone if such information is used to reject an application.

At least in NZ there is little risk for employers in that regard. Pre-employment (offer) the Employment Relations Act does not apply and rejected candidates have to rely on the Human Rights Act if they believe they have been discriminated against.  The prohibited grounds for discrimination (such as sex, race, religion etc) are quite limited and will rarely be an issue for not employing someone (and if they are, the employer will not spell it out anyway).

Whats at issue is conduct which shows a lack of judgment,  maturity or simply behaviour which is unacceptable for the workplace. Rejecting someone on these grounds is not discrimination and there is no risk for an employer doing so.

When an employee publishes information on facebook, they are also at risk of being held responsible for such conduct. In Adams v Wellington Free Ambulance Service Inc the Authority refused the reinstatement of an ambulance worker after Ms Adams published comments about her supervisor being a ‘prick’ and a ‘dick’. Although the comments occurred outside work hours, the Authority decided correctly that the incident showed a breakdown in the trust and confidence required in an employment relationship.

So when you publish, think twice – and remember, the net does not forget.

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