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Attorney advises employers on online browsing

A hiring banner hangs in downtown Steamboat Springs in 2014.
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Do's and don'ts of employee discrimination

Do discriminate based on:

Skill-level, past experience, education, degrees, past job performance, recommendations from past employer

Don't discriminate based on:

Race, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, national origin, religion, disability, age (40 and older), political affiliation, military status, union affiliation, genetic information

Source: bechtelsanto.com

— While employers may be tempted to browse the social media accounts of prospective employees, they need to be careful to use the information found only in a legal way.

Grand Junction attorney Michael C. Santo visited Steamboat Springs on July 14 to offer some do’s and don’ts for employers gathering information about prospective or current employees online.

“You should discriminate on the things you can,” Santo said. “But stay away from what you can’t.”



As an example, Santo said that, if an employer were to find a blog of a prospective employee that included political discourse, the employer couldn’t legally discriminate against the hire due to his or her political beliefs.

“Stay away from using that as a hiring decision,” Santo said.



But, an employer could take note of the person’s poor grammar on a blog, if grammar were a relevant job skill.

Santo spoke to a group of business and human resources professionals about the laws protecting employers and employees and how social media can be used to screen candidates.

Santo said employees pursuing lawsuits against employers based on speculation that the employer didn’t approve of their online activity is growing more common with today’s technology.

“It’s an increasing source of new litigation,” said Santo, who has represented employers through his law firm, Bechtel & Santo. “We’re still working to figure this all out.”

Many lawsuits against employers are based on assumption and speculation, Santo said, but when the allegations make it to a jury, members will want to know the real reason an employee wasn’t hired or was fired.

“Juries expect an explanation,” Santo said.

Santo’s presentation was organized by the Colorado Workforce Association and Yampa Valley Talent Partners, a new, informal group of human resources professionals in the region.

“We’re trying to get them information so they can make better hiring decisions — better and more lawful,” Santo said.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow


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