We have a guest post from a FirstJob Blog fan, reader, and grandfather. Check it out.
Aaron C. Kramer is a proud grandfather, avid reader, semi-skilled fisherman, enthusiastic blogger and Gentleman of Leisure. Before his retirement, Aaron was a communications specialist and consultant for a number of corporations and non-profits. When not firmly ensconced behind his laptop, he can be found anywhere used and interesting things are sold.
Every job-seeker is protected by a number of rights and privacy-expectations. Those protections include potential employers being required to disregard an applicant’s race, gender, sexuality, religious affiliation, political views, (legal) personal habits, love life, health issues/mental or physical disabilities or financial situation during the hiring process.
No employers are allowed to compel you to take a lie detector test (unless you’re guarding money or work for a pharmaceutical distributor). No employer can access your credit report without your written permission. No employer can pull your medical, bankruptcy, Worker’s Compensation or scholastic records without written permission. Usually military records are also off-limits, although basic information- name, rank, duty assignment, wage, awards and duty status can be released by the military without your permission.
There are, however, features of an applicant’s past that are not necessarily subject to privacy protections. Two good examples include a job-candidate’s criminal record and their social media presence.
Criminal Background Checks
Criminal checks by employers and what they’re allowed to do with that information are both pretty murky grey areas. The legality of accessing records, ease of access to those records, and hiring/firing decisions based on what an employer finds also vary considerably from state by state. Some states, upon request, provide everything from major felony violations to speeding tickets in a single convenient package. Others make almost any search almost impossible except on a county-to-county basis. Most states, however, are pretty forthcoming with the records of high-risk sexual offenders. If you have any kind of criminal record, researching what the laws are in your state is always a wise move.
Social Media and the Futility of Un-Seeing
Even looking at an applicant’s social media output can be risky business for a hirer. Doing so often renders unavoidable the discovery of details that have no place in the hiring process like ethnicity, religion, politics, pregnancy status, etc. There are shades of privacy though. If an employer or recruiter accesses information that the potential hire has purposefully taken steps to make private, an excellent (legal) case could be made for intrusive violation of privacy. However, if there are public, accessible-to-anyone shots of the applicant in their underwear upending a bottle of vodka- an invasion of privacy claim will be harder to defend.
Plus, chances are that if the hypothetical employer does cite their motive for choosing not to hire you, they’ll attribute that decision to something general- a lack experience or qualifications- rather than saying, “Your political views are very different from my own, sorry,”; “I don’t really like Methodists/Wiccans/Atheists,”; “I was creeped out by the gun collection you were showing off,” or “I saw all those pictures of you doing shots with your friends while in a state of partial undress and disapproved morally.”
What Does This Mean for You?
Every job-seeker should begin their employment-journey by doing research. Find out what the laws and regulations are regarding background searches in your state and remain aware of them. As for your social media- think like an employer before you post something, consider removing anything that could be considered objectionable by that hypothetical employer and definitely hide the controversial stuff behind a privacy wall.