LinkedIn was sued last year by several individuals who claimed the social media network’s “Reference Searches” prevented them from obtaining jobs. It’s not uncommon for employers to conduct their own background checks on job applicants using social platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook. If an employer discovers an applicant is engaged with illegal or immoral activities, which are published on his or her social media networking accounts, the employer may deny them the job position.
The lawsuit’s main Plaintiff, Tracee Sweet, says she was denied a job after the company for which she applied used LinkedIn’s Reference Searches function. Sweet applied for the job, had an interview with the company manager, and was told that she would be hired shortly thereafter. However, the company later called Sweet to tell her that they had changed their mind.
LinkedIn is often used as a preliminary tool for conducting research on an applicant’s background.
LinkedIn’s Reference Searches are frequently used by employers to see who applicants and existing employees have worked for in the past. They usually consist of the company name, position and date of employment, revealing invaluable information for employers in search of new workers.
After being denied the job position, Sweet and several other job seekers filed a lawsuit in which they allege LinkedIn’s Reference Searches violated their legal rights under the Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA) by operating as a Credit Reporting Agency (CRA). Assuming Sweet’s allegations were factual, and that LinkedIn was in fact a CRA, the social media network would not be able to publicly publish information such employment history.
As such, any potential employer can anonymously dig into the employment history of any LinkedIn member, and make hiring and firing decisions based upon the information they gather, without the knowledge of the member, and without any safeguards in place as to the accuracy of the information that the potential employer has obtained,” wrote the lawsuit against LinkedIn.
Just last month, however, a California district court ruled in favor of LinkedIn, saying Sweet did not provide sufficient evidence to support allegations that the social media network operates as a CRA. LinkedIn’s Reference Searches were not consumer reports in the eyes of the court, nor did the information obtained within these reports have an effect on the individual’s “character, general reputation, mode of living” and other elements as required by the FCRA in consumer reports.
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