A class-action lawsuit filed in California last week alleged that hundreds of large employers, like T-Mobile, Amazon, and Cox Communications, engaged in illegal discrimination by targeting advertisements for job openings only to younger employers. The lawsuit claims that this is a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against a worker or job applicant 40 or over because of his or her age.
The lawsuit alleges that employers who post ads on Facebook can choose the ages of those who see their ads. They can run ads that only show up to users who are aged 18-38, 22-45, or 21-55. The lawsuit claims that when an employer runs ads that can only be seen by younger employees, this violates the ADEA.
This lawsuit is the latest attack on Facebook’s practice of “micro-targeting,” which permits advertisers to send ads to very specific segments of the population. Facebook has been criticized for allowing advertisers to target users based on their race, and the company announced last month that it would cease doing this. While Facebook was not named as a defendant, the lawsuit accuses it of engaging in age discrimination in its own recruitment efforts.
This lawsuit should remind employers not only to be careful about how they advertise, but also about where and to whom they advertise. Only advertising job openings to a specific group could unintentionally leave the employer open to violating the ADEA, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, or the Americans with Disabilities Act.
It is difficult to predict how this lawsuit will turn out, because it will hinge on the particular facts of the case. Stay tuned for updates on the case, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions about how you can avoid running afoul of the ADEA and other laws when you recruit and hire employees.