Sunday, November 29, 2009

The EEOC May Punish Employers Or Insurers Who Review Applicants or Employees' Social Media Posts For Insurance or Personnel Decisions

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act ("GINA") that went into effect on November 21, 2009, prohibits employers from utilizing genetic tests or considering an applicant or employee's genetic background in hiring, firing, or promotions. The main change from the law is that in general, it will prohibit health insurers and employers from asking employees to provide their family medical histories. GINA applies to companies who have more than 15 employees.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is trying to determine how social media will fit into the law. GINA does not punish employers for obtaining information on workers from traditional or electronic media. However, with the explosion in the use of social media, the EEOC is worried that health insurers and employers will data mine an applicant or employee's social media accounts and utilize the information obtained to discriminate against them.

The easiest way for an applicant or employee to avoid any possible discrimination based upon their genetic background is to avoid discussing their personal or family medical issues on social media. I believe there are some things that better suited for a personal conversation or an email than a social media post. I would like to borrow from the the old Latin derived saying "Let the Buyer Beware" and coin the phrase "Let the Social Media Poster Beware."

Copyright 2009 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.