TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
At 1:24 PM +0000 4/1/97, Lisa Higgins wrote:
>kibozing the net for personal information is a big, fat, stinky,
>rotten idea. It's going to turn something up that's not your
>business. It's going to turn up protected information that you are
>not allowed to ask, and that's laying you wide open for speculation.
>I am not a lawyer, but I'd venture a guess that it is also illegal to
>seek out this information through alternate means as well.
Back in the late 80's, I spent a year as a technical trainer in the
human resources department of a major Boston-based supermarket giant.
Although my primary responsibility was computer training, I also was
expected to help facilitate the in-house management seminars related
to hiring and discrimination.
At that time, our understanding of federal discrimination laws was
that is is *not* illegal to *ask*. It is illegal to *use* information
pertaining to protected classes when making hiring decisions.
In our seminars, we did instruct managers not to ask this information.
Not because it is illegal to do so, but because if you do ask, then
the burden of proof is on the hiring manager to prove that they did
not use that information in their decision.
Given this, I suspect that searching the net as part of the hiring
process is not remotely illegal (unless it leads a manager to discriminate
against a member of a protected class). Of course the ethics of searching
the net as part of hiring practice is a completely different discussion.