Social media workplace danger zone

By Patricia Daddona
PBN Staff Writer

Hope Global, a company headquartered in Cumberland that makes shoelaces, parachute cords and other engineered textile products, consciously refrains from using social media when checking references while hiring. More

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Focus: HUMAN RESOURCES

Social media workplace danger zone

PBN PHOTO/TRACY JENKINS
MEDIA SAVVY: Hope Global Human Resources Vice President Dorothy Mattiello, human resources assistant Jen Vierra and Human Resources Manager Connie Vitorino. The company doesn’t use social media during the hiring process.

By Patricia Daddona
PBN Staff Writer

Posted 12/16/13

Hope Global, a company headquartered in Cumberland that makes shoelaces, parachute cords and other engineered textile products, consciously refrains from using social media when checking references while hiring.

“We do not check private social media accounts, but we have an aggressive [traditional] reference check,” said Dorothy Mattiello, the company’s vice president of human resources.

For such questions as “Are you married?” or “How old are you?” she said, “If I can’t ask those questions legally, I’m not going to ask those questions by going through social media, because that’s like going through the back door.”

Federal law prevents employers from discriminating based on age or marital status, as well as other criteria like race and gender. The company has 650 employees worldwide, with about one-third of those based in Cumberland, Mattiello said.

Hope Global’s policy of avoiding social media when checking references is actually far more stringent than what could be required by a proposed social media privacy bill that at least one lawmaker, like his counterparts across the country, is planning to put before colleagues in 2014.

Prohibiting employers from coercing access to job applicants’ social networking accounts is one of the stipulations in a bill dubbed the Social Media Privacy Act that Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy, D-Hopkinton, and others succeeded in getting passed in the House this past summer.

A companion bill stalled in the Senate, so Kennedy is planning to introduce it again in the upcoming session.

The bill, which also aims to establish a social media privacy law for students, would prohibit asking employees or job applicants for passwords, asking for an employer to be on a contact list, asking the employee or applicant to change their privacy settings, or asking the employee or applicant to access their personal site in the employer’s presence.

“I don’t tweet or use a Facebook account because I’ve heard of so many problems with social media accounts,” Kennedy said in a recent phone interview. “I just think fair is fair, whether we’re talking [about] a college individual or somebody who is going to get employed. There are reasons people use privacy settings. If the information is in front of a firewall you’re entitled to discover it; if it is behind a firewall or privacy settings, you are not. You are not as an employer allowed to ask for that information.”

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