What Your Association Needs to Know About Job Boards

By: Eileen Morgan Johnson

Potential legal issues that can arise when offering a job board.

Q. My association is considering launching a job board. What potential legal issues should I be concerned about?

A. Job boards have become more popular as associations look for additional sources of nondues revenue. A job board can be as basic as a place on an association's website where employers can post job openings, or it can be more robust by offering online career-resource centers that include resumes of prospective employees, posted job openings, resume critiquing and writing services, compensation and negotiations, and other services related to the job search. When considering a job board, consider the following issues:

Audience. One of the first decisions when launching a job board is whether the job board will be open to the general public, open to everyone in a particular profession or industry, or limited only to those who are members of the association and can access the job board by using a member login.

Intellectual-property rights. Employers that post jobs on the association's website will likely want to use their companies' logos or other trademarks in the job posting. The posting agreement should include a limited license to the association, authorizing the use of an employer's marks on the association's website for purposes of promoting the employer's job openings.

User conduct. Employers and job seekers should both agree to terms of use for the job board. Typical terms of use include

  • Refraining from posting untruthful, defamatory, or profane material;
  • Using information provided on the job board only for its intended purpose;
  • Maintaining the confidentiality of certain information;
  • Payment of any required fees to access the job board.

Disclaimers. In our litigious society, an association might be concerned about the potential liability posed by a job seeker who found work through an employer's job-board advertisement but for whom the employment relationship did not work out. This is less likely to be a concern with job boards that only provide a place to post the job listing with no prescreening of those who respond to the posting. But some associations limit access to their job boards to members who have met minimum qualifications such as education, ethics compliance, or certifications. In those cases, is there any representation to employers who post on the job board that association members who might respond are minimally qualified for the posted positions?

To avoid these problems, a click-through agreement with terms of use should be used to clearly set forth the expectations to those who post positions on the job board and to those who apply to posted positions.

A job-board disclaimer can include the following statements:

The association does not

  • Guarantee job placement for anyone using its job board;
  • Guarantee that an employer will fill the vacancy by advertising on the job board;
  • Guarantee the validity of any job vacancy submitted;
  • Make recommendations regarding potential employers or employees;
  • Perform background checks on job applicants or employers;
  • Assume any responsibility for wages, benefits, safety, working conditions, or any other aspect of employment.

The disclaimer should be posted so that its terms must be read and agreed to by anyone using the job board.

Taxes. For associations that charge fees to employers who post job listings on their website or to job searchers, the revenues they receive are basically fee-for-service or advertising income, which is subject to unrelated business income tax (UBIT).

The association might be able to identify corporate sponsors to cover some of the costs of operating the job board. In such cases, the corporate-sponsorship fees would not be taxable as UBIT if the association complies with the IRS requirements for qualified-sponsorship payments. A qualified-sponsorship payment is any payment made by a person engaged in a business for which the person will receive no substantial benefit other than the use or acknowledgment of the business name, logo, or product lines in connection with the organization's activities. This does not include advertising the sponsor's products or services.

Job boards are often a way to add nondues revenue to your association while providing a benefit to the association's members. By carefully identifying and addressing potential legal issues prior to the rollout of the job board, your association can minimize or eliminate potential legal problems.

Eileen Morgan Johnson is a partner at Whiteford, Taylor & Preston in Falls Church, Virginia. Email: [email protected]

Eileen Morgan Johnson

Eileen Morgan Johnson is a partner at Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, LLP, in Washington, DC.