EEOC Holds Open Meeting on Social Media’s Impact on EEO Law

On March 12, 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held an open meeting on the implications of social media on equal employment opportunity laws. The EEOC carefully stated that this was a “listening session” and said it does not plan to issue guidance on social media issues. A panel of EEOC officials and private employment-law attorneys discussed social media’s impact on recruitment and hiring, harassment, records retention, and discovery in litigation. Highlights of the meeting for employers included:

  • Noting that using social media to screen applicants does not violate federal employment laws, several panelists recommended that employers use caution to ensure that such screening does not discriminate.
  • The panel acknowledged that technology is outpacing the law. The panel noted as examples social media tools such as Confide and Snapshot, which allow users to send messages that self-destruct after a short amount of time, posing record-retention challenges for employers. The panel said, regardless of the technology used, covered employers must reasonably comply with the law’s record-retention requirements.
  • The panel recognized the need to balance employee rights with employers’ legitimate concerns about their employees’ social media posts.

Perhaps the main takeaway for employers from the session is to draft workplace social media policies to ensure that employees understand their roles and responsibilities and to conduct training.