Communications Union Attacks Facebook Ads that Discriminate based on Age

FacebookA major lawsuit has been filed against a class of “hundreds” of American employers that allegedly “routinely” exclude older workers from receiving employment and recruitment ads on Facebook.

The lawsuit, filed by the Communications Workers of America in the U.S. District Court of Northern California, specifically names three plaintiffs, T-Mobile USA, Inc., Amazon com, Inc. and Cox Media Group, LLC.

The union seeks seek an injunction “to stop America’s leading companies from engaging in unlawful age discrimination in employment.”

According to the lawsuit, Facebook requires employers or employment agencies seeking to post job advertisements to select the age range of Facebook users who will be eligible to receive the ad. The lawsuit alleges that employers routinely target users who are under the age of forty.

This is the latest in a series of lawsuits filed to halt the use of Internet screening tools that target younger workers and screen out older workers.

Several other lawsuits have been filed to attack epidemic and unaddressed age discrimination in hiring in the United States.

In 2016, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled that job applicants cannot bring disparate or systemic impact claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA).  In that case R.J. Reynolds Tobacco provided advertising guidelines to CareerBuilder to target young applicants with two or three years of experience and “stay away” from applicants who had been in sales for eight to ten years. The U.S. Supreme Court refused a request to review the case.

In February, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago was asked to reverse the dismissal of a 2015 lawsuit alleging that Carefusion Corp. engaged in systemic age discrimination when it used a seven-year experience cap in job postings for a senior counsel position. Dale. Kleber, a 58-year-old attorney, submitted an application but was not invited for an interview. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has argued in that case that the ADEA should not be extended to job seekers.

(Note: This issue has been around since at least 2010, when this author filed a complaint with the EEOC alleging that was violating the ADEA by posting hundreds of job ads from law firms and legal employment agencies that contained blatant age and/or experience limiters. A dozen examples of discriminatory ads on were included in the complaint. Needless to say, the EEOC did nothing.)

The lawsuit alleges Facebook “has turned its powerful ad platform into a conduit for age discrimination … national employers have coordinated with Facebook to exclude an enormous portion of the American labor force from receiving job ads, recruitment, and hiring opportunities—from national employers like T-Mobile, Amazon, Cox, Capital One, Citadel, Defenders, Facebook, Leidos, Sleep Number, and Weichert Realtors, to national staffing and employment agencies.” The lawsuits alleges Facebook uses age filters to exclude older workers from seeing Facebook’s own employment ads.

Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that Facebook allows employers to target workers who are “ages 18 to 38,” “ages 22 to 45,” or “ages 21 to 55,” thereby preventing older workers from receiving advertising and recruitment for job opportunities.”

Here are some excerpts from the complaint:

  • “Sadly, this case reveals that age discrimination remains an entrenched facet of the American workplace. Upon information and belief, nationwide, large and small employers alike apparently believe that it is appropriate and desirable to exclude American workers from job opportunities solely based on their age.”
  • “In every corner of America, when an older worker loses her job at a coal mine, a steel mill, a call center, a hospital, or an office, and she looks for a new job using the internet and social media to find job opportunities, she likely has no idea that major American companies are purposely refusing to tell her about the next job opportunity that may help her feed her family or make her next mortgage payment to stave off a devastating foreclosure.”
  • “For tens of millions of forgotten workers whose plants have shuttered, hospitals have closed, and retail stores have been driven out of business by e-commerce, receiving ads for job openings via Facebook could be a godsend—a ray of hope at the end of a long, dark tunnel in which American workers have been discarded by national companies that place profit over people.”

The lawsuit does not specifically name Facebook as a defendant.

The Communications Workers of America represents more than 700,000 workers in a broad range of industries, including telecommunications, cable, information technology, airline, manufacturing, print and broadcast news media, education, public service, and healthcare, among others.

There are three named plaintiffs in the case: Lura Callahan, 67, and Linda Maxwell Bradley, 45, are former call center workers in the telecommunications industry and other fields. Maurice Anscombe, 57, is a former cable technician and law enforcement officer. They are unemployed workers and use Facebook and other websites to search for work..

The plaintiffs are represented by Outten & Golden LLP, an employment and civil rights law firm with offices in New York, Washington, DC, San Francisco, and Chicago. Ironically, David Lopez, who resigned as general counsel of the EEOC earlier this year , is an attorney for the plaintiffs. Not only has the EEOC ignored the ADEA  and blatant hiring discrimination for at least a decade, the EEOC has actually engaged in age discrimination in hiring.

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