Human resource departments today have an easier time evaluating job candidates than at any time ever before. That’s because today, many job-seekers do not choose to hide their personal views, religion, family background, or other details of their personal lives – instead, they choose to share a great deal of personal information on their social media pages.

Although employment discrimination is illegal when based on certain characteristics, such as age, religion, ethnicity, sex, disability, national origin, and others, it occurs on a daily basis. Online searches can help discretely assist in the discrimination.

Recently, two researchers with Carnegie Mellon University conducted an experiment about social media in hiring. They created Facebook profiles for fictional job candidates, making them virtually identical except for religious affiliation (placing them as either Christian or Muslim), and sexuality. They submitted applications for these fictional job applicants to over 4,000 employers.

The study found that roughly one-third of the companies seemed to have examined the social media profiles of the candidates. There appeared to be no discrimination against applicants based on whether they were straight or gay. However, in conservative areas of the country (based on election results), there was a significant bias against Muslim applicants in favor of Christian applicants. In the most conservative states, only about two percent of the Muslim applicants were asked to interview, as opposed to 17 percent of the Christian applicants.

In 2014, a survey of over 2,000 hiring managers found that over 40 percent admitted to using the internet to research job applicants. About half of those who researched the applicants found information that caused the manager to not extend a job offer. Many of those who did not then research applicants on the internet indicated that they planned to do so in the future, which means the trend is towards online searches.

There are many topics that interviewers may be curious about but cannot bring up in an interview, because it could lead to claims of discrimination. For example, an interviewer should not ask about your children, plans to have children, or child care arrangements, because it could be considered as sexist. However, if you post pictures on social media of yourself surrounded by five young children, that could be a turnoff to a manager, who does not know that they are your nieces and nephews or that you have a full-time live-in nanny who watches your children while you are working. Likewise, some employers may not like the idea of a devout Christian or Muslim in the workplace, but will not ask questions about religion during a job interview. However, it can be easy to tell a person’s religion from his or her Facebook page.

If you are looking for a job, you should carefully evaluate your online presence. You should consider hiding as much information as possible on your social media pages. If you have a blog that clearly has your name and personal information on it, and it would not reflect kindly on your ability to be a good employee, consider temporarily disabling it until you get a new job.

It’s unfortunate that job discrimination is now easier than ever, but it’s a reality in today’s digital age. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty and Seth I. Rosenberg believe that no employee should be discriminated against because of his or her religious beliefs, race, sex, disability, age, and other characteristics. Call the Oakland employment discrimination attorneys at Liberty Law at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000 to learn more about how we can help if you have been discriminated against in the workplace. Call today to schedule a free consultation on your case.

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