Facebook job ads allow age discrimination, lawsuit claims

Some relevant numbers were not immediately evident.

Is this OK? According to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, it probably isn't, because showing age bias when hiring is not lawful, according to the act.

"It's blatantly unlawful", said Debra Katz, a Washington employment lawyer who represents victims of discrimination. However, it added that its own recruitment efforts are "designed to reach all ages and all backgrounds, " adding that "age-based targeting for employment purposes is an accepted industry practice and for good reason: It helps employers recruit and people of all ages find work".

In addition to employment, civil rights laws prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, lending, voting and education.

Facebook this year launched a section of its platform devoted to job ads. Employers such as Verizon, Amazon, Goldman Sachs, and Target have all purchased ads limited to certain age groups, according to the investigation. Numerous ads include a disclosure by Facebook about why the user is seeing the ad, which can be anything from their age to their affinity for folk music. ProPublica bought job ads on Google and LinkedIn that excluded audiences older than 40 - and the ads were instantly approved. "What matters is that marketing is broadly based and inclusive, not simply focused on a particular age group", he wrote in the statement.

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That federal lawsuit in San Francisco claims that companies including Amazon.com Inc, T-Mobile US Inc, and Cox Communications Inc forced age limits on who could view recruitment ads, limiting some only to people younger than 38. Last month, ProPublica re-upped the study in light of Facebook's continued inaction, which prompted the tech giant to temporarily block advertisers' ability to target users by race.

Goldman compared the practice to running employment ads in magazines or on TV shows targeted at younger or older people. "We completely reject the allegation that these advertisements are discriminatory".

Neither Facebook or ProPublica immediately responded to our request for comment.

Since many jurisdictions consider it a crime to aid and abet age discrimination - which it appears Facebook is indeed doing - they may be at risk of legal action themselves. But this obscures an important distinction. "Until we can better ensure that our tools will not be used inappropriately, we are disabling the option that permits advertisers to exclude multicultural affinity segments from the audience for their ads", C.O.O. As recently as September, the company removed anti-semitic categories from its ad network. HubSpot said it was a "mistake". There is a bit more leeway here than with other protected classes. In Amazon's case, for jobs at its distribution centers, it changed 18-50 to anyone over the age of 18. They are only visible to users of a certain age group, and selectively exclude older workers from seeing the ads, an investigation has revealed.

"We welcome and actively recruit applicants of all ages", Williams said.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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