Readers in Detroit know, of course, that when they apply for a job, they are evaluated on the application materials they submit, such as a cover letter and resume. But what about other information that is readily available to employers? In this age of social networking and the privacy-is-dead Internet, there is a so much out there that employers can easily access, whether the applicant wants that information to be found or not. But is that content fair game, or would making a call on that information constitute unlawful discrimination? The answer, always, is “it depends.”
To illustrate this, let’s look at the case of a woman from Charleston, West Virginia. The woman was hired as the executive director of the Bob Burdette Center, a church-affiliated after-school program for children. But before she actually began working at the center, the center’s board of directors rescinded the offer, claiming there were inconsistencies in her resume and that she had made misrepresentations in her interviews.
The woman, however, claims that the real reason the job offer was rescinded is that board members found her Facebook profile and formed the opinion that she is a lesbian. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is not against the law in every state, but a skilled employment law attorney could argue it is against public policy. He or she might get far with that argument, given how our society seems to be increasingly accepting of gay men and women.
Now, we cannot jump the gun. This woman’s case has not gone to court, so it is just as possible that she did falsify her resume as it is that the board did rescind her offer because they thought she was lesbian. But her case raises all sorts of questions not only about making hiring decisions based on sexual orientation, but also about using information gleaned from “unofficial” sources.
Certain information, such as a criminal record, is fair game whether an applicant wants a prospective employer to know about it or not. As for the rest, it is far too complicated and detailed a subject to explain fully here. An employment law attorney, however, could outline acceptable and unacceptable for making a hiring decision with greater specificity.
Source: The West Virginia Legal Record, “Woman says she was fired for perceived lesbianism,” Kyla Asbury, Sept. 20, 2011