Are You Googling Your Job Applicants?

© 2006 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Summer 2006
Author: Naomi Angel
Page 76

Current Hot Legal Topics
By Naomi Angel, DASMA Legal Counsel

Are You Googling Your Job Applicants?

According to a recent article in BusinessWeek, employers are using Google to obtain information on job applicants and employees. These online findings may reveal enlightening information not provided on job applications and in conventional interviews.

Job applicants may need to contend with a trail of online information, some good, some not so good. In particular, blog entries and personal data on sites like can come back to haunt applicants.

Tip: Job applicants and employees may need to think beyond their résumés, credit reports, and references. An employer who is even moderately skilled at search engine research can discover information that might be embarrassing.

Does Your Employment Manual Prohibit You From Firing an Employee?

A terminated employee in Illinois claimed that his termination was a breach of contract. He claimed that the employer’s employment manual was a contract that required the employer to provide continual employment.

The employer moved to dismiss, saying that the manual was not an employment agreement, noting that the manual itself included a disclaimer that allowed “at-will” termination. An Illinois trial court and appellate court agreed.

Tip: This decision demonstrates the need for an adequately worded disclaimer that your employment or personnel manual is not an employment contract or binding commitment to the employee regarding continued employment.

Identity Theft Tops Lists … Again

About 4.6 million people, 3 percent of American households, suffered an identity theft incident in the first half of 2004. The Justice Department says credit card misuse is the most common consequence of identity theft, representing about half of reported cases. Misuse of bank/financial accounts is next.

About two-thirds reported money losses, with an average loss of nearly $1,300. Younger, well-off families between ages 18 and 24 with incomes over $75,000 were the most targeted group. The Federal Trade Commission has reported that identity theft had topped its consumer complaint list for the sixth straight year.

Tip: Vigorously police your financial data, especially monthly statements, and take advantage of the free credit reports available from the principal credit reporting agencies.

Can You Require Employees to Lead Healthy Lives?

Remember the Michigan employer that made news last year by terminating employees who refused to quit smoking? Now that same employer is requiring its employees to take mandatory medical/physical examinations or face increases in their out-of-pocket monthly healthcare premiums.

The employer says it is not discriminating against unhealthy employees, but pushing them to adopt healthier lifestyles to reduce their health costs and the company’s health costs. However, employee groups and many legislators argue that what the employee does off the job is none of the employer’s business so long as the activities are legal.

Tip: Some states have already passed laws stating that employees cannot be terminated for engaging in legal activities, including smoking. With skyrocketing health costs, employers are looking for ways to reduce their health cost exposure. This debate is just getting started.

What Should Be the First Question in a Disaster?

A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor raises that question. Its conclusion: Who is in charge? Reason: Without a firmly understood command structure, lives can be lost, and other bad results can follow.

The article cited Hurricane Katrina as an example of what happens when the chain of command breaks down and no one person is responsible. Disasters are not confined to hurricanes, mine accidents, and terrorist bombings. They also include computer systems crashing and ambush interviews by reporters, etc.

Tip: Companies must have an emergency response plan in place before bad news arrives. Creating a responsibility plan on the run usually makes things worse. Think through your chain of command. What can and should be done on short notice? What’s the plan going forward? Who should be responsible for talking to the press and who should not be? Who is in charge?

This article is provided solely for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. If you have specific questions or concerns about a legal issue, consult your company’s legal counsel for guidance.