Major Companies are Excluding Older Workers from Job Ads through Facebook

These Are the Job Ads You Can't See on Facebook If You're Older

Facebook disagreed with ProPublica's stance, noting that while it does target specific age groups in ads, it uses the practice responsibly.

Now there's debate over whether that violates the 1968 Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

Getting know about job vacancies is not a hard thing these days as most companies put out recruitment notifications on their social media handles, mainly on Facebook. "They may have an obligation there not to aid and abet an ad that enables discrimination", said Cliff Palefsky, a San Francisco employment lawyer added.

While some companies defended their age-targeted ads as part of broader campaigns to reach workers of all age groups, others including Amazon, Northwestern Mutual, and NYC's Department of Education told ProPublica they had screwed up and that they would not place such ads in the future.

Linda Bradley, Maurice Anscombe and Lura Callahan contend in their complaint that "hundreds of major American employers and employment agencies routinely exclude older workers from receiving their employment and recruiting ads on Facebook... deny [ing] older workers job opportunities... by targeting their ads to younger workers".

For example, it spoke with a social media strategist in his 50s who wasn't shown an ad for a job in his field at HubSpot, but the same ad was shown to younger users.

The lawsuit came on the same day a ProPublica/New York Times report detailed how companies are able to exclude older workers in employment ads on Facebook, and after other reports this year found discrimination against other groups by way of Facebook's ad micro-targeting capabilities.

Nonetheless, in a time when people 40 and over are struggling in America because of age discrimination and Facebook is becoming a very large employment hub, concerns have been raised. "Upon further review we realized that some of the ads presented do not, so we've removed them", a Facebook spokesperson said. Propublica managed to buy job ads excluding those 40 and over on Google and LinkedIn, with the latter claiming it had changed its system when it was notified of the buys.

The employers' preference of a younger workforce might be a thing, but it surely raises questions about the discriminative practice of displaying the ads only to people of a certain age group.

Moreover, it is considered a crime in many USA jurisdictions to "aid" or "abet" age discrimination, a provision that could apply to companies like Facebook that distribute such age-based job ads.

Is enabling age targeting for online recruitment ads a form of discrimination? Goldman said that the practice was appropriate as long as the overall marketing by a company was "broad-based and inclusive". In a search for "part-time package handlers", United Parcel Service ran an ad aimed at people 18 to 24. On a social media platform, the ad may simply never appear for a person outside of the targeted group due to the algorithm that is populating a user's feed.

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