Class Action Suit Alleges LinkedIn Violated FCRA By Providing Employers With Reference Reports

Another interesting case filed in California recently highlights the myriad risks employers face when using social media as part of their hiring process.

A class action lawsuit was filed in the Central District of California against LinkedIn based on allegations that the reference reports LinkedIn generates for premium subscribers, including many employers, violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”). According to the plaintiffs in Sweet, et. al. v. LinkedIn Corporation, an employer who is a premium subscriber can generate a report containing the names, locations, employment areas, current employers, and current positions of all persons in a user’s network who may have worked with a job applicant and also contact the applicant’s “references.” An employer, according to the allegations, can run such a “reference report” on a job applicant without the applicant receiving any notification whatsoever. Thus, as the complaint alleges, “any potential employer can anonymously dig into the employment history of any LinkedIn member, and make hiring and firing decisions based upon the information they gather, without the knowledge of the member, and without any safeguards in place as to the accuracy of the information that the potential employer has obtained.” The complaint claims this activity potentially violates both the FCRA’s purposes, which include safeguards as to the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of the information that a potential employer obtains, and the FCRA’s customer notification requirements.

This latest lawsuit against LinkedIn serves as another example of the complex legal issues and risks that an employer faces when using social media to make recruiting and hiring decisions.

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