Hiring in the Age of Social Media

By Andrea Morris


Every company wants the best candidate for the job. Your company is no different. The only proven way to recruit the best possible people possible for your team is to have a thorough background investigation conducted by a third party. You could choose to conduct the investigation yourself, but beware, numerous court rulings have been found against employers for inadvertent discrimination.

As an employer, you must be aware of the liabilities your company may be exposed to should you choose to conduct a background investigation yourself. Including social media profiles in an investigation you conduct on your own only exposes your company to further liability. Impermissible data abounds in the world of social media. It’s nearly unavoidable. As does just about everyone on social media, candidates will, more often than not, list in their “bio” or “about” section a whole host of personal, impermissible, protected data including but not limited to: the hiring candidate’s race, gender, age, political affiliation, religion, nationality, disability status, marital status, or other protected status.

In the case of Gaskell v. University of Kentucky, an applicant successfully sued and was awarded $125,000 following the denial of a position after impermissible information was relayed to the employer.

“The plaintiff was rejected for employment as a scientist after another employee circulated an email detailing the plaintiff’s religious views — which were visible on the plaintiff’s personal website — to members of the hiring committee.  The Gaskell case serves as a cautionary tale: Even if the impermissible information is not used in making the employment decision, the mere fact that the employer accessed the information may infer improper motive (Morgan & Davis, 2013).”

Mistaken identity on social media can also pose a major liability. How can you determine which Facebook profile belongs to the hiring candidate when 25 identical names are listed? Do you have the license and/or sources to verify this information? What about inaccurate or deliberately false information? Let’s say your hiring candidate has listed “Graduated from Harvard University” in his Facebook bio. Is that information truly accurate? Do you know how to legally validate this claim?

As an employer, you may choose not to include social media information at all in an investigation.  However, it is still possible to risk a discrimination lawsuit merely by satisfying your curiosity outside the scope of an official background investigation. Should you ever find yourself wondering whether or not to look up your hiring candidate’s Instagram, remember to err on the side of caution.

Employers may risk claims of discrimination if they browse through candidates’ social media accounts in the hiring process (Lambert, 2016).

The Forbes article The 10 Dos and Don’ts of Conducting Employee Background Checks is more straightforward in its warning, urging companies to do the following:

Do use a professional agency to process your background check. Great screening companies will do a far better job of locating the information you want.  They have the experience and processes to be accurate and efficient.  They also prevent you from viewing data that might be a violation of state or federal law.

Don’t run a limited search yourself. You can’t find everything online. So much of the concrete — legally obtained — data for a background check can only be conducted by a licensed background check firm.

It is possible to significantly minimize your company’s liability for hiring discrimination by contracting an objective and unbiased third-party agency which specializes in the legalities of both employment law and background investigation, to access the information and relay only pertinent hiring information back to you, rather than risking the liability of conducting an investigation yourself.

At The Meurig Group, keeping your company safe from hiring discrimination liability is what we do. We make it our business to be aware of federal and state employment guidelines so you can focus on what’s important to you: hiring the best candidate for the job.  We can help.  Let us find out.


Works Cited

Belicove, M. (2012). The 10 Dos and Don’ts of Conducting Employee Background Checks. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikalbelicove/2012/10/26/the-10-dos-and-donts-o-conducting-employee-background-checks/#30445fff4e2b

Lambert, A. (2016). 5 Ways Social Media Can Land Employers In Court. Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/articles/761008/5-ways-social-media-can-land-employers-in-court

Morgan, H. & Davis, F. (2013). Social Media and Employment Law Summary of Key Cases and Legal Issues. Retrieved from http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/events/labor_law/2013/04/aba_national_symposiumtechnologyinlaboremploymentlaw/10_socialmedia.authchecdam.pdf.http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/events

Can a Private Investigator Carry a Badge and Gun?

By: Bill Morris
Chief Executive Officer
The Meurig Group, LLC

This is a very popular question among new private investigators. Can I carry a badge and gun as a private investigator? To answer this question we must break the question into two parts: 1) Should a private investigator carry a badge and a gun? 2) Why would a private investigator want to carry a badge and a gun?

Texas Penal Code

Texas Penal Code Section 37.12, clearly states

A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly misrepresents an object as property belonging to a law enforcement agency.

What purpose is a badge if not to convince another person of the authority of the investigator?  The answer is, none.  Let’s be honest here, if a private investigator is flashing a badge and a gun, that investigator is hoping to insinuate to those he or she is investigating that he or she is acting under the color of the law.  The implicit purpose of doing so is to appeal to the public’s general consensus that one must comply with police directives.

The loophole defense here is: Texas Law says I cannot put the insignia of a municipality, county, or State of Texas on my badge.  My badge has my company logo and license number.

All of these things may be true, but one must go a bit deeper into the law to find a clear answer into whether or not a private investigator in Texas can carry a badge.

Texas Occupations Code

Texas Occupations Code 1702 states:

Sec. 1702.130. USE OF CERTAIN TITLES, UNIFORMS, INSIGNIA, OR IDENTIFICATIONS PROHIBITED. (a) A license holder, or an officer, director, partner, manager, or employee of a license holder, may not:

(1) use a title, an insignia, or an identification card, wear a uniform, or make a statement with the intent to give an impression that the person is connected with the federal government, a state government, or a political subdivision of a state government; or

(2) use a title, an insignia, or an identification card or wear a uniform containing the designation “police.”

(b) Subsection (a) does not prohibit a commissioned security officer employed by a political subdivision of this state from using a title, insignia, or identification card, wearing a uniform, or making a statement indicating the employment of that individual by the political subdivision.

Note the broad statement in the law above “A license holder, or an officer, director, partner, manager, or employee of a license holder, may not: . . give the impression . . .”

This section of the law falls to the “reasonable person test.” If a reasonable person observed a private investigator carrying a badge, would the reasonable person conclude that the private investigator was “connected with the federal government, a state government, or a political subdivision of a state government . . .”? If the answer to this question is yes, the private investigator could be in violation of the law. 

A private investigator does not need to carry a badge to identify himself or herself as licensed private investigator in the State of Texas. The Texas Private Security Bureau issues all licensed private security and private investigation professionals an identification card with the professional’s picture on the face of the card. The Texas Private Security Bureau also allows for online license checks here.

Can a private investigator carry a gun?

Private investigators are not licensed peace officers, or federal agents.  Any private investigator wanting to carry a firearm must meet the same licensing standards as any other private citizen.  The predominant question to carry a firearm or not must be: For what purpose is the private investigator carrying a firearm?

If the private investigator is attempting to look like a police officer or federal agent, the private investigator probably should refrain from carrying a firearm.  If the private investigator is a firearms expert that carries a firearm on a daily basis whether at work or not, perhaps he or she could carry as long as doing so is in accordance with company policy and applicable state laws.

For the consumer

If you are reading this because you have been approached by a private investigator and you’re worried about the legitimacy of the investigator, here are few things to remember:

  • You have no obligation to speak to a private investigator.
  • A private investigator wearing a badge and a gun in plain view may indicate a lack of training or licensing, and may be a violation of the law.
  • Contact 911 immediately if the private investigator becomes confrontational.

Private investigators have enough access to enough resources to gather the information needed during an investigation.  Attempting to coerce through overt or implicit acts is never necessary.

Should a private investigator carry a badge and a gun? Almost certainly never.


Can a Private Investigator use GPS to track a vehicle?

By: Bill Morris
Chief Executive Officer
The Meurig Group, LLC

Whether for cheating spouses, rogue teens, or small businesses wanting to track their inventory, the question of hiring a private investigator to employ and monitor a global positioning system in an effort to learn the whereabouts of a vehicle is a routine one. The answer is, well, yes.

Actually, no.

Well maybe, it depends on the circumstances.

Federal Law

Perhaps the best place to start is with state and federal law.  Let’s start with the Constitution of the United States of America, The Bill of Rights, specifically the Fourth Amendment.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Broadly speaking, the Fourth Amendment protects citizens from prying eyes, especially if those prying eyes belong to a government entity.  In short, if a government agency, like the police, wants to track a vehicle via clandestine GPS, said agency must attain a search warrant to do so.  The warrant must include very specific details about the vehicle, the owner of the vehicle, and the probable cause for which the GPS is needed to further the investigation or make an arrest.

State Law

Private investigators are not law enforcement or government officials. In most states private investigators are licensed through a state licensing agency which sets a minimum standard for entry into the profession.  In Texas, for example, a private investigator manager must have three years of experience conducting investigations, pass a state administered comprehensive test regarding private security and investigator laws, and successfully pass a criminal background check before he or she can be deemed a Private Investigator Manager.  The Texas Association of Licensed Investigators is a great place to find more information on how to become a private investigator in Texas.

Once licensed, private investigators typically work on the behalf of an individual. A fact which further confuses the issue of employing a GPS device to monitor property, especially covert monitoring.

Laws may vary by state, but for the purposes of this article, Texas law seems most appropriate. Texas Penal Code, Title 4, Chapter 16, Section 16.06 very clearly defines the instances in which a global positioning system can be installed on a vehicle.

(d) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the person:

(1) obtained the effective consent of the owner or lessee of the motor vehicle before the electronic or mechanical tracking device was installed;

(2) assisted another whom the person reasonably believed to be a peace officer authorized to install the device in the course of a criminal investigation or pursuant to an order of a court to gather information for a law enforcement agency; or

(3) was a private investigator licensed under Chapter 1702, Occupations Code, who installed the device:

(A) with written consent:

(i) to install the device given by the owner or lessee of the motor vehicle; and

(ii) to enter private residential property, if that entry was necessary to install the device, given by the owner or lessee of the property; or

(B) pursuant to an order of or other authorization from a court to gather information.

So yes, a private investigator in Texas can install a global positioning system on your vehicle but only if you provide written consent for him or her to do so.

Even though a Private Investigator can, should she?

I’d like to point you to section (d) of the Penal Code 16.06 which states: “It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section . . .”

This means that a person, including a licensed private investigator, may be charged with an offense under Penal Code Section 16.06, for installing and monitoring a GPS device on a vehicle even with written consent of the owner. Upon trial, the investigator has an “affirmative defense to prosecution” if, and only if, the investigator can prove that the person who solicited her business was the registered owner of the vehicle.

This fact leaves a great deal of things to consider for the client and the private investigator:

  1. Is the person asking for a GPS monitoring system to be installed on the vehicle the owner listed on the title of the vehicle?
  2. How can I prove ownership of the vehicle if the vehicle is owned by a bank?
  3. How will I know if ownership is transferred to another party during my investigation?
  4. Can a spouse, including a common law spouse, not listed on the title of the vehicle request that a GPS device be installed on a vehicle owned by the couple?

For all of these questions, Occam’s Razor applies.  In Texas, ignorance is not a defense to prosecution, so failing to be able to prove beyond doubt that the person requesting the installation and monitoring of a GPS device on a vehicle is the legal owner of the vehicle may result in criminal prosecution of the investigator.

Are GPS systems worth installing on vehicles?

No, and for reasons beyond the criminal liability of having to prove ownership of a vehicle in court should an angry spouse, child, friend, or employee discover the device. GPS devices only tell a person monitoring the device where the vehicle was at a given point in time.  Comprehensive investigations tell far more than what street or parking lot the vehicle was in at 2AM on a Wednesday.  An investigator skilled in surveillance, photography, videography, and report-writing will tell you who was driving the vehicle and what the person did while he or she was away from the vehicle.

The bottom line is that GPS devices are expensive to install, and more expensive to monitor.  Expense, coupled with the legal risks associated with the installation and monitoring of GPS devices simply do not outweigh the reward of being able to point to a dot on a digital map and saying “your car was here.” For you to make a well informed decision, or be successful in court, you really need to be able to say “I have photographic proof of . . .”


Who Am I? A Family History Rediscovered

By: Bill Morris
Chief Executive Officer
The Meurig Group, LLC

Hobbled by age, he trudged to the table in the middle of the room.  In his hands he held nearly two decades of research about who he believed his family was or could be.  He strained his eyes over his bifocals as he began to quietly thumb through the pages of the tattered binders inscribed with the names of his grandchildren.

“You think you could help me find someone?”

He spoke mostly as an afterthought while he read the stories and legends of the family members he only knew through spoken tales from generations past.  “I’m stuck at my great-great grandfather.”

So it began. The task at hand was to discover as much about an old man’s legacy as one could possibly know.  There would be no great prize, no promise of notoriety at the conclusion of this case; just simple answers to the simple question: Who am I? 

The Meurig Group team of investigators set to work.  They combed through thousands of records spanning hundreds of years, five countries, and two continents.  What they found was astounding, credible, and accurate beyond the elderly man’s expectations, and they did so in hours, not years.

In fifteen hours to be exact, The Meurig Group, LLC’s team of licensed private investigators verified some information in the data found in the binders presented by the man, debunked erroneous facts, and offered definitive conclusions to the whereabouts, occupations, and military service of the man’s family in America, Mexico, Canada, France, and Germany.  The small team of investigators worked tirelessly to establish a timeline of family members and events dating back to 1537.

simple questions quoteHow did the team of investigators accomplish so much in so little time?  By holding true to the scientific method, avoiding investigator bias, and using only records that could be verified by more than anecdote.

With tears in his eyes, the old man sat across from the lead investigator and held in trembling hands proof that his family fought in the French and Indian Wars, The American Revolution and founded the great city of Saint Louis before travelling to the Rio Grande Valley during the mid-1800’s to help build and live in Matamoros, Harlingen, Laredo and most of Zapata County.

The Meurig Group’s team offered more answers to a man in need of history than any previous research group in the last twenty years.  Imagine what they can do for you.


The Contractor: Do you know who you really hired?

By: Bill Morris
Chief Executive Officer
The Meurig Group, LLC

It’s McAllen, Texas, in late June of 2017, which means two things; 1) the outside temperatures are already reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit, most days are hotter, and 2) the summer hasn’t even begun to exercise its summer tax on the sunny Rio Grande Valley city.  In short, it’s hot and it is going to get much, much hotter.  This reality means that air conditioning units will fail, and air conditioning contractors are going to be in business, as will every other unlicensed person trying to prey on the ill-attentive while attempting to pass him or herself off as “an A/C professional.”

Unfortunately, no person or business is immune from swindlers and con-men attempting to take advantage of people in desperate need of relief from the relentless McAllen sun. In one such case, a tenant renting an apartment from a well-known highly profitable property management firm located in the city, contacted the management company with a third complaint about the tenant’s air conditioning not functioning.

“We will send our guy out,” was the routine response from the property manager.

The tenant was suspicious.  “What company does he work for, and what is his A/C technician or contractor license number?”

“Why do you want this information?” demanded the property manager.

ac article

“I would like to know who is coming into my home,” replied the tenant.  And with that, a company name was given, and the first name of the repairman.  The same repairman that had entered the tenant’s home on two previous occasions.

The Meurig Group, LLC, was contacted and had an investigator do what investigators do; investigate. The private investigator conducted license checks and surveillance operations on the air conditioning contractor en route to the tenant’s home and the air conditioning company the contractor purported to be employed by.

What the investigator found was not surprising, but disconcerting all the same.  The person passing himself off as a certified independent contractor had no license and never had a license as a contractor or technician in any state of the United States.  The company he worked for had no working phones, a license set to expire within days, no marked storefront, and had been previously suspended by the state from conducting business for failure to pay taxes.

The repairman on his way to the tenant’s home, who had entered the home twice before for the same air conditioning problem, had no background check, no license, and no qualifications to be working on an air condition unit in any state.

“But we’ve been using him for 5 years,” the property management team said with surprise.  Less than 20 minutes after being alerted to their contractor’s unlicensed operation, the tenants were contacted,   “We’re sending out another company.”

Hess Air, a fully licensed air conditioning service, sent a fully certified HVAC professional to the tenant’s home. The HessAir professional solved a year’s worth of air conditioning problems in 20 minutes, saving the tenant from another very hot summer in an unsafe home.

Imagine how much time and money the property management company would have saved over the previous five year period by using a reputable company with certified professionals.

Private investigators do more than investigate cheating spouses and insurance claims. We are licensed professionals skilled in the art of fact-finding.  You have the right to know whether the person coming to your home to repair your property is a licensed professional, or just some guy with a truck, a wrench, and no background check.

Contact us The Meurig Group, LLC to speak to an investigator today.


How I Became a Private Investigator

By: Bill Morris
Chief Executive Officer
The Meurig Group, LLC

I assume my story is like a lot of former military members turned law enforcement turned private investigator stories.  Nonetheless, here is how and more importantly why, I chose to become a private investigator.

I’ll need to take you way back to 2006 to properly tell my story.  After three combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, I separated from the United States Air Force.  I assumed it would be easy for me to find a job in the civilian sector.  The separation liaison spoke eloquently about a grateful nation waiting just beyond the gates of the base ready to offer a job to an airman that spent four years learning how to set up wireless networks, memorizing RADAR capabilities, honing surveillance skills, and sharpening combat abilities.  I was relieved to be leaving, but naive.  Very naive.

“You have too much combat experience,” were the words of one Central Texas police department recruiter as he slid my application packet back across the table to me. He wasn’t the first, nor the last to make such a statement, but I persevered.

After a trip to Saudi Arabia to work as an overpaid, under-worked defense contractor, I finally got hired by a police department in Texas.  I loved and hated the job.  I loved the guys I worked with.  I loved the work.  I loved it so much that I became a sexual assault and family violence investigator.  I put all my Air Force skill sets to use.  I sat, I observed, I documented, I compiled evidence, authored reports, and made arrest after arrest after arrest.  400 arrests in about 3 years, mostly felonies, all convictions.  The downside?  I woke up one December and realized that my daughter was 4 and I didn’t know her. Working nights for 4 years delivers that reality with shocking sobriety.

Time a for a career change!  I went to the Texas Department of Public Safety and worked in the counter-terrorism cell for a while.  I helped track all kinds of people and activities throughout the state of Texas.  I learned how to build webs of persons of interest and track their every move online, over the phone.  You name it, I could have probably found out where it happened, who was there, and when it would most likely happen again.  The work was amazing but the pay was so low that I could hardly feed my family.

how quoteChange 2, or 3, if you count the military.  Texas was looking for a “Chief Paralegal for Trial Defense Services for the National Guard.”  I applied and was hired as a civilian employee of the

Texas Military Services.  I used my bachelor’s degree from Penn State every day that I worked and supervised criminal defense cases for Guardsmen accused of violating state and federal military law.  The job required a mind-numbing amount of paperwork, review, and more paperwork.

It wasn’t uncommon for me to go days without interacting with another professional in person.  I would sit in my office for 10 hours a day, in silence, typing reports, subpoenas, and motions, making the occasional phone call, and compiling trial documents into neat little brown folders.  I missed people.

I became a teacher.  I teach history, economics, world geography, and law enforcement.  It was in a law enforcement class that one of my students asked plainly and innocently, “Sir, why don’t you make your own company? You’d be good at it.”

Here I am, a certified private investigator, business owner, teacher, father, and husband. It’s the best choice I’ve ever made.  I work with my wife.  I investigate cases for people that police don’t have time for, and help the accused get a fair trial.  I mean, the district attorney has an investigator assigned to almost every case.  If you’re a criminal defense attorney going up against 3 or 4 investigators and another lawyer; what chance does your client really have?

And that’s why I do what I do.  I believe that every person deserves to know the truth, and to have his or her truth spoken in court, to a business partner, or spouse.  I stumbled into this career, but I wouldn’t change a thing.


Go Beyond Google

By Andrea Morris


Everything he does lately is making you question whether he’s being faithful to you.   Something feels wrong, but you don’t have proof.  You need to know.  Your heart pounding, you type “Is he cheating on me?” into Google.  Immediately, you’re bombarded with thousands of pages of articles and blog posts all claiming to know the surefire signs that “prove” he’s cheating.  You open one article.  Then another, and another.  The signs are familiar.  With mounting panic and a flood of cold dread, you’ve concluded he is cheating on you.

What’s next?  The confrontation of course.  Having already decided his guilt, you accuse him, showing him your “proof”, only for him to provide legitimate and honest explanations for his behavior.  He’s shocked and hurt by the allegations.

You were wrong.  There has been a grave miscommunication.  He wasn’t cheating.

Now, you realize you may have permanently damaged your relationship.  The trust is now gone.  The next time he’s at the store just a little too long, or he has to work overtime, he’ll remember when you accused him of cheating. That constant strain on a relationship can break it.

Could this have been prevented?  According to psychologist Dr. Jill P. Weber, here’s the first thing you should do after concluding on your own that your partner may be cheating:

DON’T PANIC.  This may be a struggle, but try.

“When we perceive danger or a threat, our bodies release excess stress hormones and adrenaline, essentially putting us in a hyper-vigilant, ready-for-action state.  Although the chemicals associated with panic make us ache to take action, what we really need to do is take a breather.  Pause instead of giving into the panic and throwing your partner’s clothes on the front yard, or making a down payment for a new home.  Give yourself the calm and tranquil space necessary for the chemicals to run their course through your nervous system. No one in a panic state, and I mean no one, makes decisions in his or her best interest.  You need just enough calm to return so you can begin to think through how best to handle the situation (Weber, 2017).”

Intense emotions stirred by suspicion are primal, but emotions are not proof.  The Meurig Group’s licensed private investigators conduct unbiased investigations based on facts and evidence.  Your case’s findings report can provide you with the evidence you need to determine how to move forward in your relationship, and unless you disclose it, your partner will never know you hired us.

Save yourself the trauma of trying to find out on your own, the results could be disastrous.  Go beyond Google.  Leave the investigating to us.

Contact The Meurig Group, LLC* today to find out how we can help.

Works Cited
Weber, Jill P. (2017) 5 Things Not to Do If You Find Out Your Partner is Cheating.  Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/having-sex-wanting-intimacy/201702/5-things-not-to-do-if-you-find-out-your-partner-is-cheating