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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Youth at Work

B is incorrect.

The law does not prohibit employers from using publicly available material such as publicly available Facebook pages to make employment decisions, as long as they do so in a non-discriminatory fashion. For example, it would be illegal for the company to decide not to hire Maria after learning that her aunt had breast cancer out of fear that Maria would also develop breast cancer.

The law prohibits employers from seeking out genetic information (such as family medical history) of applicants or employees. However, the law does not prohibit employers from accidentally obtaining genetic information from commercially and publicly available sources, such as newspapers, magazines, and certain online sources. Here, it appears that the company accidentally obtained Maria’s family medical history (her aunt’s breast cancer) when it accessed her publicly available Facebook page. Because the company was not seeking Maria’s genetic information, but rather accidentally discovered the information from a publicly available web site that was not likely to contain genetic information, the company did not violate the law.

Try again! Select another choice below.


12. Maria applies to work as a summer intern at a radio station. The interview goes well. A Human Resources employee conducts a background check, which includes an Internet search of Maria’s name. Maria’s Facebook page appears in the Internet search results. The Facebook page, which is available for public viewing, features a picture of Maria standing next to a mile marker in a T-shirt imprinted with “My Aunt is My Hero” and a pink ribbon. Touched, the Human Resources employee conducts an Internet search for Maria’s name and “breast cancer” and learns that Maria’s aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer but is responding well to treatment. The Human Resources employee writes a note on the white board in his office: “Touch base with Maria: aunt’s cancer treatment.” The employee’s sister was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and he is interested in learning more about successful treatments. Maria is hired. Did the company discriminate against Maria?

  1. No. The company did not discriminate against Maria; it hired her as a summer intern.
  2. Yes. The company discriminated against Maria by viewing her Facebook page.
  3. Yes. The company discriminated against Maria by seeking out information about her aunt’s breast cancer and posting a note in public about Maria and her aunt’s cancer treatment.
  4. No. The Human Resources employee should not have conducted the Internet search for Maria’s name and “breast cancer” and should not have written “Touch base with Maria: aunt’s cancer treatment” on his white board. However, the employee took these actions to help his sister, not to hurt Maria.