What Can HR Managers Learn From Shirley Sherrod ?

July 29, 2010

By Stephen D. Bruce, PHR
Editor, HR Daily Advisor

The unfortunate and embarrassing story of Shirley Sherrod’s ouster from the Department of Agriculture by Secretary Tom Vilsack has at least a small silver lining—it’s a stern reminder to HR managers to look before they leap.

Sherrod was sacked after a video of her remarks at an NAACP banquet in Georgia were posted on YouTube. Later it became apparent that the remarks had been taken out of context and the video edited substantially. Secretary Vilsack apologized, saying “She’s been put through hell.”

On the Internet it may appear that you have found some damaging (or extolling) information, but beware:

§ You may not be looking at the right person

§ The information that appears may not have been put there by the person involved

§ Texts, pictures, and videos may have been manipulated before posting or after posting

And of course, the racial aspect of the Sherrod situation reminds employers that Internet searches are bound to reveal information you wish you didn’t have. For example, information about race, religion, disability, sexual preference, and more.

And by the way, you’re not secretly searching the site. It’s likely that there’s a trace of your visit.

So should you search at all? The experts are split. It’s a risk versus reward call, trading off the difficulties related to hiring someone you wish you’d found out more about against the prospect of a discrimination lawsuit from someone you did find something about.

Premier Employment Screening Services helps organizations make informed higher decisions faster by combining comprehensive, accurate and cost-effective background screening solutions with innovative technology. info@premieress.com.


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