Managing Social-Media Risks—
A Critical Task for 2012
Linkedin, et al. can be a valuable asset in the hiring/firing process—but also add liability
BY MICHELLE STRICKLAND
WIThOuT quESTIOn, social media has revolutionized not only the way we connect with friends and
family but also how we conduct business,
including the hiring, discipline and termination of any business’ most valuable
This asset can quickly become a liability,
however, if social-media risks are not
effectively managed. here are some points
to help your clients lessen those risks.
THE HIRING PROCESS
Many hiring professionals and employers’
first stop during the hiring process is social-media outlets to screen applicants. They
turn to LinkedIn or Facebook to learn
more about an applicant’s education, their
friends or even their social behavior.
Sometimes, a candidate is rejected
based on content found on the applicant’s
social-media pages, which could include
inappropriate photos or comments,
references to alcohol and substance
abuse, discriminatory comments,
slanderous statements and/or the sharing
of confidential information regarding
A small-business owner with a few
employees can purchase an EPLI
policy for around $1,000, while the
cost of litigation could reach
hundreds of thousands of dollars.
their previous employer, proof of poor
communication skills and exaggeration of
illustration by Veer
While the above reasons are legitimate
cause for concern, and employers
advantageously have social media at their
disposal to prevent negligent hiring, a
business can be at risk for discrimination
if accessing social-media sites that contain
protected class information not privileged
in the normal course of the hiring process.
To mitigate this risk, employers should
use outside third parties in their hiring
process, including background-verification
companies and/or recruiters who document
content acquired on social-media sites in
the candidate-selection process.
ESTABLISHING A SOCIAL-MEDIA POLICY
Employers need to have a solid social-media policy in place. This policy should:
J Outline what constitutes inappropriate
use of social media, from personal use
during work hours to the type of content
posted, including defamatory language
about the company.
J Address the penalties for disclosure of
trade secrets on public pages, in a language
and context that can be understood clearly.
J Address disciplinary action and
termination procedures for violation of
social-media use in its various forms.
DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT
If an employer is considering disciplinary
action, including termination based on
content found on a social-media site or
other inappropriate use of social media,
it is imperative to adequately document
the content that is the basis for the
Employers, however, need to caution
themselves on the content and extent of
the policy itself.
For a price comparatively nominal to the
cost of litigation, employers can purchase
an employment-practices liability insurance
policy (EPLI). An EPLI policy provides
protection for the employer from the economic
and noneconomic losses resulting from
employment-related claims, including but not
limited to claims of wrongful termination,
discrimination, harassment or retaliation.
In addition to an employer’s risk-management portfolio for social media,
an employer’s overall risk management
should include an EPLI policy to protect
them from the costly litigation associated
with labor and employment.
A small-business owner with a few
employees can purchase an EPLI policy for
around $1,000, while the cost of litigation
could reach hundreds of thousands of
dollars and financially devastate an
E Michelle Strickland, RpLU, is
a professional-liability underwriter
in the Special Risk Division
international of Burns & Wilcox.
She may be reached by phone
at 248-539-6136 or by email at
December 5/12, 2011 | National Underwriter Property & Casualty | 33