For the “New” News Media, There is No Past, Only a Self-Congratulatory Present

pumping ironFor years, there has been litigation over the fact that the internet is being used to screen out the resumes of older workers and deposit them in a digital trash can.

But suddenly the powers that be are taking notice in the wake of a supposed investigative story on Dec. 20 by ProPublica and The New York Times about Facebook permitting employers to exclude older workers from receiving employment and recruitment ads. That’s a good thing but …

That NYT story was based largely upon a Dec. 20  federal class action lawsuit filed by the Communications Workers of America against major employers that use Facebook to screen out older job applicants. And the CWA lawsuit is the latest of several to challenge the use of internet technology to target young job applicants and screen out older job applicants.

In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court last year refused to hear a case involving a 2010 lawsuit brought by Richard Villarreal against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. that alleged Reynolds hired recruiters to develop an algorithm that was used to screen out older applicants for job vacancies on CareerBuilder (which settled its part of the case out of court). The legal press (including me) wrote extensively about the case.  This matters because it shows that the government has been on notice for years that the internet is being used as a tool to effectuate epidemic age discrimination in hiring.

Apparently we have entered an era of news “marketing” where reality is of little consequence.

ProPublica issued another hard-hitting story, earlier this week, quoting Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president of the AARP as stating: “We urge online platforms to take the steps needed to ensure they’re not supporting age-based recruiting and hiring practices. And we continue to call on all employers to end bias in their employment practices.” Of course, there is no reference to the fact that the AARP sat on its hands for  more than a decade, virtually ignoring age discrimination, while it piled on billions from the sale of licensing fees to health care providers, etc.

Earlier this month, Pro Publica reported upon a press release (of course the term press release is not mentioned) from the Senate Aging Committee that its leaders, Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, and Robert Casey, D-PA, sent letters on Dec. 22, 2017 Google and LinkedIn and Facebook seeking information about age ranges and geographic regions target in advertising. The organizations have until January 31 respond.

ProPublica maintains the AARP and Collins and Casey “were reacting to a Dec. 20 report by ProPublica and The New York Times that dozens of the nation’s leading employers, including Facebook itself, narrow their audience for job ads on Facebook and other platforms by age.”

Until last month, the Senate Aging Committee was silent about the problem of age discrimination in employment. So much so that this blog on Nov. 25 appealed for the Committee to  investigate  the EEOC’s second-class treatment of victims of age discrimination. Then, on Nov. 27, this blog ran a story complaining the Senate committee was neglecting its history of advocacy for older workers. The Committee held a hearing on Dec. 5 in which Sen. Collins expressed concern that a higher burden of proof is applied to age discrimination than other types of discrimination. The Committee also made a fleeting reference to the problem in a report released last month on America’s aging workforce. That was a major victory for those of us who have labored in this field because it was the first time the modern-day Committee acknowledged the problem of age discrimination in a substantive way.

And by the way, ProPublica, the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act will NOT provide parity to older workers, who would still be second class citizens under the law if the POWADA were, in fact, enacted. One particularly egregious problem would be fixed but the Age Discrimination in Employment Act is still far weaker than its counterpart, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, color and national origin. You’d know that if you read my 2014 book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace.

For those of us who run the marathon, it is hard to stomach the superficial, self-congratulatory coverage of the “new” media.

ProPublica describes itself as a nonprofit, independent newsroom that produces investigative journalism with a “moral force” whose work is funded primarily by donations. Maybe they’re trying to get more donations?  But seriously guys, the “moral force” also applies to you.

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