In Social Media Recruiting & Social Media Discrimination of this five part series, I outlined some of the types of protected classes and discussed some real world possible scenarios regarding your company and social media discrimination. In EEOC & Workplace Discrimination, I outlined potential liabilities and government agencies that are learning about social media. Disparate Impact & Disparate Treatment in the Workplace discussed disparate and adverse impact. This series has been extremely popular. It’s generated some great conversations and felt it should continue. Part 4 without much further ado. . .
Dukes v. Wal Mart & Unconscious Bias
While the world awaits the Supreme Court Ruling on the world’s largest class action lawsuit, Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc, there looms another potential employer liability when it comes to employees in the workplace, social media and social media discrimination.
On March 29th of this year, the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments for the largest sex-discrimination case in history. Seven women claimed that they were looked over for promotions and large raises while their male counterparts received them.
Now just imagine if these seven women had glowing references from these same supervisors using LinkedIn and comments on their Facebook and Flickr photos saying things like, “I’m so happy to hear about your pregnancy” or supervisors simply liking their employees’ photos. It’s things like this that provide evidence that employers were aware of certain lifestyle and family decisions helping to drive their employment decisions unconsciously.
Online Unconscious Bias
As social media becomes the communication method of choice, companies should be concerned about the potential liabilities from online unconscious bias. In 2007, the EEOC began focusing their efforts on unconscious bias. Unconscious bias is the concept that individuals can have a bias at an unconscious level that influences decision-making in ways that the individual is unaware. Essentially employers and hiring managers demonstrate and are unaware of behaviors that are bias against a protected class. Unconscious bias is also the foundation of the Dukes V Wal-Mart class action lawsuit.
Some of these experts believe these unconscious biases are extremely pervasive based on their studies. Over 80% of their respondents showed “implicit negativity toward the elderly compared to the young; 75-80% of self-identified Whites and Asians show an implicit preference for racial White relative to Black.”
Project Implicit is a virtual laboratory in existence since 1998. Over 4.5 million respondents have completed their project demonstration voluntarily providing their information for use toward the study.
So does it make sense to assume that employment bias behaviors and patterns that one demonstrates in person would also occur online?
Putting Unconscious Biases to Sleep
Since Facebook’s launch in 2004, university experts have been studying the correlation between Facebook users offline and online behaviors. Their work over the last 7 years supports that fact that the key to social media platforms like Facebook is that pre-existing offline community factors and behaviors compliment the use of the social media site. And because of studies like this it makes sense to assume that employers would exhibit the same biases both online as they already do offline. The only difference being the ease at which employers can have access to this protected information allowing their unconscious biases to become more prevalent.