Facebook, Amazon, and hundreds of companies post targeted job ads that screen out older workers
Facebook users are suing them for age discrimination.
By Alexia Fernández Campbell
May 31 2018
Older workers are accusing Facebook, Ikea, and hundreds of other companies for discriminating against job seekers in their 50s and 60s through targeted job ads posted on Facebook.
The Communications Workers of America, a labor union representing 700,000 media workers across the country, added the companies to a class-action lawsuit on Tuesday, which was filed in California federal court in December. In its original complaint, the labor union accused Amazon, T-Mobile, and Cox Media Group of doing the same thing.
The case, Bradley v. T-Mobile, has major implications for US employers, who routinely buy job ads on Facebook to reach users. The plaintiffs argue that Amazon, T-Mobile, Ikea, Facebook, and hundreds of other companies target the ads so they are only seen by younger Facebook users.
The lawsuit revolves around Facebook’s unique business model, which lets advertisers micro-target the network’s users based on their interests, city, age, and other demographic information. In the past, equal rights advocates have suedFacebook for accepting ads that discriminate against consumers based on their religion, race, and gender.
Facebook has argued that the company is not legally responsible when other companies buy ads that violate the law. But in a new filing, the CWA has now added Facebook to its complaint as one of the companies accused of violating civil rights laws by targeting its own job ads to younger users.
Here is one ad Facebook posted, submitted by the plaintiffs, inviting users to a career fair with Facebook recruiters. The ads were visible only to users between the ages of 21 to 55:
Facebook has denied that these kinds of ads are a form of age discrimination. Rob Goldman, Facebook’s VP of ads, compared it to posting job ads in magazines geared for young audiences, which the courts have said isn’t inherently a form of age discrimination as long as the company is also posting job ads in media outlets with older audiences or making other recruitment efforts.
“What matters is that marketing is broadly based and inclusive, not simply focused on a particular age group. In addition, certain employers want to attract retirees or recruit for jobs with specific age restrictions like the military or airline pilots,” Goldman wrote in December in response to the original lawsuit and to the ProPublica and the New York Times’s investigation that described the widespread practice.
Facebook came under fire in 2016 when a separate ProPublica investigation showed that companies could buy ads that screened out users based on their race, which is potentially illegal in the context of housing and employment advertising. Facebook announced in February 2017 that it had developed a new system to flag and reject certain ads that screened users based on “ethnic affinity,” but the network still lets advertisers filter out characteristics linked to other protected groups: women, people with disabilities, and religious minorities.
In the age discrimination case, plaintiffs want the court to order these companies, including Facebook itself, to stop posting job ads that filter out older workers. They argue that it’s a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which makes it illegal to discriminate against workers over the age of 40 inemployment advertising, recruiting, hiring, and other employment opportunities.
Here are a few other ads the plaintiffs submitted as evidence: