Lara Kollab fallout: Should companies review prospective em…


CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Clinic may require a check of prospective hires’ social media before hiring them, after the group Canary Mission flagged Dr. Lara Kollab’s toxic social-media views, apparently causing her ouster. A clinic spokesperson told The Plain Dealer’s Ginger Christ that, while hiring managers are not currently required to review a potential employee’s social media history, the system is discussing whether to do that.

Clinic spokeswoman Eileen Sheil told the Cleveland Jewish News that one reason it’s not required now is because of the difficulty of verifying and checking social media accounts.

Kollab was a supervised first-year resident at the Cleveland Clinic from July to September 2018. Six years earlier, in 2012, according to Canary Mission, which tracks anti-Semitic statements on college campuses, she tweeted that she’d “purposely give all the yahood the wrong meds.” Yahood derives from the Arabic word for Jews.

Update: Late Friday, Kollab through her lawyer apologized for the social media posts and said they do not represent her current views: “I wish sincerely and unequivocally to apologize for the offensive and hurtful language contained in those posts. This statement is not intended to excuse the content of the posts, but rather to demonstrate that those words do not represent who I am and the principles I stand for today.”

The Cleveland Clinic said in statements said that, when it was “recently made aware of comments posted to social media,” it “took immediate action, conducted an internal review and placed her on administrative leave. Her departure was related to those posts and she has not worked at Cleveland Clinic since September.”

The Cleveland Clinic told Christ that, as a supervised resident, Kollab’s work was overseen by others “with multiple safeguards,” and that it has “no reports of any patient harm.” “We fully embrace diversity, inclusion and a culture of safety and respect across our entire health system,” the clinic added in a statement.

Kollab’s Ohio medical trainee certificate is no longer valid since she’s no longer at the clinic, Christ reports, but the license, issued at the end of July, still shows it’s active and good until June 2021 on elicense.ohio.gov.

The Editorial Board Roundtable looks at the hiring and licensing issues raised by this case and welcomes readers’ thoughts in the comments.

Ted Diadiun, editorial board member:

When I was in charge of hiring, if Google and social media had been available, I would not have dreamed of hiring anyone without a search. The revelation that this is not done routinely at the Cleveland Clinic, where the stakes are so high, is appalling. The clinic’s excuse falls short: Prospective employers should not make decisions based on social media postings, but they should investigate and question what they find there.

Thomas Suddes, editorial writer:

Many prospective employers do review or attempt to review a potential hire’s social media postings, so it’s hard to see why a medical institution would choose not to do so.

Eric Foster, editorial board member:

Roughly 77 percent of Americans have a social media profile. I think putting the onus on HR personnel to review all social media for employees would just be too time-consuming and costly to businesses. The more practical solution is having an HR policy allowing reprimand/termination for problematic social media posts. Also, I don’t think anyone could reasonably argue that invalid medical licenses should not be immediately displayed as such. That’s crazy talk.

Mary Day Doherty, editorial board member:

The State Medical Board of Ohio should flag Lara Kollab’s license as suspended pending investigation. Trolling prospective job applicants’ social media presence as part of the interview process, however, is a sticky wicket for employers. Federal law forbids employers from discriminating against applicants by using non-job-related information in hiring decisions. By extension, exposure to information gleaned from social media could increase an employer’s risk of violating these laws.

Lisa Garvin, editorial board member:

I’m surprised the Cleveland Clinic is not reviewing the social media activities of current and prospective employees; it’s common practice in the private sector and should be expected. However, the burden must be on employers to make truly objective assessments of social media posts. In Kollab’s case, threats to harm Jewish patients are clearly a firing offense, but I worry about inherent bias and the lack of due process in less overt situations.

Elizabeth Sullivan, director of opinion, cleveland.com:

This case shows dramatically why reviews of social media posts are likely to become a common part of the hiring process by hospitals and others, and part of other applications, including by educational institutions considering admission offers. And Ohio should immediately review its indefensible policy of not showing as invalid or suspended medical licenses as soon as they are determined to be so.

Editor’s note: The caption on the photograph accompanying this editorial board roundtable was corrected at 2:36 p.m. to more accurately describe the 2012 tweet attributed to Dr. Lara Kollab. The post was updated at 8:27 p.m. to include a statement from Dr. Kollab apologizing for her earlier posts and saying they do not represent her current views.

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* Email general questions about our editorial board or comments on this editorial board roundtable to Elizabeth Sullivan, director of opinion, at [email protected]

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