I was looking around a popular business-oriented social media site, and the content that some companies posted caught my trained employment lawyer’s eye. One, in particular, posted a lot of photos of employees who were all uniformly young (in their 30s and younger), energetic, and white.
I see a couple of issues here. First, what kind of message is this company sending to prospective employees? The message certainly appears to be that they only hire able-bodied young white employees. In this highly competitive employment market especially, it is not in a company’s best interest to discourage entire groups of people from even applying for available jobs.
Second, these social media posts could be used as evidence in a discrimination case. For example, if an African American employee files a lawsuit for employment discrimination, I could see the plaintiff’s lawyer offering the social media posts as evidence that the company does not value diversity, or that it does not value persons in protected classes. Because if the company valued those folks, it would include them in its public presence, right?
Think of your company’s social media presence as evidence that can be used in your favor or against you. That “youthful vibe” could be used as evidence of age discrimination. That “tough, macho vibe” could be used as evidence of gender discrimination. In other words, if you are not careful, your vibe could be the thing that attracts a lawsuit against your company.
The takeaway: Inclusivity is the key to attracting and retaining the best talent in this job market. Make sure that your social media presence isn’t repelling entire classes of applicants or attracting lawsuits.
Kathleen J. Jennings is a former principal in the Atlanta office of Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider, & Stine, P.C. She defends employers in employment matters, such as sexual harassment, discrimination, Wage and Hour, OSHA, restrictive covenants, and other employment litigation and provides training and counseling to employers in employment matters.
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