LinkedIn ‘Reference Search’ lawsuit shows pitfalls for employers and social media

LinkedIn Lawsuit ImageIt’s no surprise when employers and social media mix during the hiring process, as employers often want to get an accurate idea of a prospective employee beyond the glossy resume and carefully culled reference list. LinkedIn provides a service, “Reference Search,” to help those employers that are premium account holders, by providing lists of individuals that may have worked with the prospective employee. Reference Search, in theory, sounds like a good idea. According to LinkedIn, Reference Search “locates people in your network who can provide reliable feedback about a job candidate or business prospect.” The site provides this information by populating a list of individuals that have worked at the same company during the same time period as the candidate in question. However, four individuals are suing the professional social network, claiming they were passed over on jobs due to the references that LinkedIn suggested, enabling prospective employers to make hiring decisions without ensuring the information the social network provided was correct. Because the listed individuals do not have to be “connections” of the candidate, there is no guarantee that the references LinkedIn culls have any relationship whatsoever to the prospect. In Sweet vs. LinkedIn, those four individuals are claiming that LinkedIn has violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act with its Reference Search tool. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, employers must get permission to run background checks, and must verify with the candidate that any information provided in a consumer report that may be used against them is accurate. The FCRA was written at a time in which social media did not exist, and so employers and social media were not a consideration. In an interview last week, Federal Trade Commission member Julie Brill, who is not involved in the lawsuit, said, “We have made clear that the FCRA applies to services offered over the Internet and mobile apps.” LinkedIn doesn’t see this combination of employers and social media as a problem, though, as all information that a company or recruiter could use in the hiring process is available through user-provided content, which users consent to let the social network “use … distribute, publish and process” through its user agreement. LinkedIn spokesman Joseph Roualdes said the professional network intends to fight the lawsuit, as it believes its charges are baseless. photo credit: TheSeafarer via photopin cc]]>

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