A recent article in Recruiter warns employers to “tread carefully” when vetting potential candidates on social media, as they can run the risk of having discrimination lawsuits brought against them. A poll by Monster of UK companies showed 56% of employers admit online profiles are influencing their hiring decisions; numbers that high give plenty of chances for best practices to get muddled.

In the United States, companies must remain Fair Credit Reporting Act compliant, both for legal safety and out of fairness to potential hires. Vetting candidates’ social media can lead to inconsistency in the screening process and plenty of discriminatory red flags, like seeing if someone is pregnant, their race, or if they have a disability. Race, gender, health, and political views should “not be taken into consideration when deciding on…suitability for a role”.

The same goes for consultants and recruiting firms, according to Recruiter. It doesn’t make any difference if you are a third party. Discriminating based on a public social media profile is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Screening social media is not illegal or unethical if done correctly, but every company must apply standards of best practice when looking for and researching candidates, online or off. According to the same Monster survey, 33% of British companies turned down applicants based on social media. That is a large—and growing—number. Companies must set a consistent focus on job-related screening to protect themselves and their potential hires.

Interested in learning more about the best practices for screening social media? Check out our video with employment attorney James Wu HERE.