Workplace Q&A: Part 14

Q: Can a company reject my job application based on my contributions to social media?

“I applied for a job as a product manager. After several interviews, I was pretty sure that I’d get a job offer. Instead, I got a call from the recruiter with the bad news that the company decided not to hire me. He said only that the company had reviewed my presence on various social media sites. He didn’t say whether the company found any particular post, comment, “share” or “like” to be problematic. Is it legal for a company to base a job rejection on information in social media?”

A: It depends.

If the company became aware of your sexual orientation or religion through its review of your contributions to social media, it could not base a job rejection on either of these criteria.

However, if the company saw pictures of your drinking, partying or engaging in minor vandalism, it could consider these things in your hiring decision. If your social media trail showed evidence of homophobia, sexual harassment, racism or violence, the company could reject you because of concerns about these attitudes.

In any event, the company is not obligated to ask you in advance about your blogs, posts, comments, photos and likes. Nor does the company have to inform you what social media contributions it reviewed or why certain contributions caused concern.

Only you know what your social media presence reveals. You would be well advised to make every effort to remove anything that is objectionable. If you find nothing that is patently objectionable, then try removing anything that is even mildly offensive. Of course, this could prove difficult, as you may have made appearances on sites that you don’t control.

Once you’ve done your best to clean up your social media trail, you could write the company a respectful letter emphasizing your strong points and apologizing for any inadvertent misunderstanding. Perhaps it’s a long shot, but the company might take another look at you. In any event, you’ve dealt with a problem that could hamper your ability to land a future job.


Q: My manager is totally disorganized. What can I do?

“I work for a very talented manager who is extremely disorganized. He works on many projects at once and gets wonderful results, but he cannot remember what he told me to do or how to do it. I end up spending a lot of time doing things that he has already done himself or doesn’t need done any more. What can I do?”

A: Try daily check-ins.

You could try daily check-ins, either in writing or orally. At the start of the day, state what you plan to do, and then ask him if that’s how he wants you to spend your time. At the end of the day, check in again to see if that’s what he wanted. The key is to be in touch with your manager often enough that he’s aware of what you’re doing and he can articulate what he needs.

The check-in strategy has to be carried out delicately. Your boss may be completely unaware that his instructions are unclear or contradictory, but you cannot directly accuse him of these deficiencies. Make sure that your repeated follow-ups do not create the appearance of insubordination, inability to work independently, or incompetence.

If you still cannot get your manager to give you clear, consistent instructions, you should take regular notes about what he told you to do and what you did. At the very least, you’ll have a defense if you’re later accused of ignoring his instructions.

Q: My employer rejected my proposal for an employee group for video game enthusiasts. Isn’t that discriminatory?

“My employer sponsors diversity groups for working mothers, Christian Bible study, disabled employees, African American employees, Asian employees and Latino employees. Every month the company provides each group with a room, free coffee and cookies. I asked for permission to start an employee group for video game enthusiasts. My request was denied. Isn’t that discriminatory?”

A: No.

A company can make provisions for employees to provide mutual support. As a general rule, these groups support employees who constitute a minority in the workplace or who have faced some common difficulty. The company has no obligation to provide space and refreshments for all employees or for any reason. Different companies draw the line at different points. It wouldn’t be improper for your company to accept your proposal for a group of video game enthusiasts, but it is not required to do so.


Copyright © 2013–2014 Johanna Harris

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. This post contains numerous questions describing common recurring problems in the workplace. The circumstances described in these questions, including the names of characters and business firms, are fictitious.

About the Author: Johanna Harris has been a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Labor and in-house labor counsel for two multinational corporations. She is currently the CEO of Hire Fire and Retire LLC. Her new book, USE PROTECTION: An Employee’s Guide to Advancement in the Workplace (i Book, Kindle, Amazon Paperback), is intended to help you learn enough about labor law and personnel practices so that you don’t get derailed from the career track you should be on.


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