An August study by Harris Interactive for CareerBuilder.com points to something that will be no great surprise to either employers or employees: employers are increasingly using social networking sites to check out job applicants. About 45% of the survey respondents are using social networks to screen job candidates — more than double from a year earlier. “The report showed that Facebook was the most popular online destination for employers to do their online sleuthing, followed by LinkedIn and MySpace. In addition, 7 percent followed job candidates on Twitter.”
But mining information from blogs and social networking sites doesn’t stop at job hire – some HR managers have caught lying employees red-handed when they brag about playing hooky online. And now Roberto Ceniceros of Business Insurance tells us about how some employees are outing themselves as workers comp cheats by their postings on social networking sites:

“Some claimants supposedly too disabled to work post locations and dates for their upcoming sports competitions or rock band performances, boast of new businesses launched, and include date-stamped photographs of their physical activity, investigators say.
Others have openly bragged about fooling their employers with “Monday morning” workers comp claims for injuries that occurred the weekend prior and away from the workplace.”

The article talks about how the Web is a valuable tool for insurance fraud investigators who are often able to substitute web tracking for the more costly practice of physical surveillance. And it’s not just insurance companies that are finding social networking sites a good source of fraud: The IRS and state tax authorities are using social networks to identify tax cheats
Advice for employers and employees
New Jersey attorney Jonathan Bick offers some advice to employers when mining online data on prospective employees and suggests some best practice policies to ensure staying within the law. He reminds employers that it is unlawful to use any information about race, age, gender, sexual orientation or religion for certain employment decisions purposes, and that any information that an employer “…should only permit(s) employees to use the results of blog research as grounds for employment action if the information is related to work.”
He also suggests that there could be some risk of liability for hiring employers who do not avail themselves of web-related information as part of the hiring process:

“From a legal prospective, some sources suggest that an employer who does not search social networks for readily available information may be negligent in their hiring practices. Internet social networks provide employers with a low-cost, easy-to-use, high availability screening tool for job applicants. For the safety of existing employees it may argued that a blog search is necessary. In light of the cost and availability, it may be argued that an employer has a duty to mine blogs of potential and existing employees.”

For employers and employees alike, HR Daily Advisor offers advice to about ‘friending’ in Should you ‘friend” your boss? Let your boss friend you?. The article offers some guidelines to help employees balance the line between work and personal information on social networking sites.

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