The ability for advertisers to deliver their message to the precise audience most likely to respond is the cornerstone of Facebook’s business model.
An investigation by ProPublica and the New York Times found some of the biggest U.S. employers including Verizon, Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Target and even Facebook themselves, placing job ads limited to specific age groups.
But using the system to expose job opportunities only to certain age groups has raised concerns about fairness to older workers. In particular, workers over 40 years old.
Debra Katz, a Washington employment lawyer who represents victims of job discrimination said, “It’s blatantly unlawful”.
Other experts question whether the practice is in keeping with the federal Age Discrimination guidelines contained within the Employment Act of 1967. The act clearly prohibits bias against people 40 or older in hiring or employment.
Moreover, some jurisdictions make it unlawful to “aid” or “abet” age discrimination, a provision that could apply to companies such as Facebook that distribute job ads.
As expected, Facebook defended the practice.
Facebook VP, Rob Goldman said, “Used responsibly, 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”.
But how do we know it actually stops there? We don’t.
A few weeks ago, U.S. phone company Verizon placed an ad on Facebook to recruit applicants with an ad displaying a smiling, millennial-aged woman at a computer and promised new hires could look forward to a rewarding career in which they would be more than just a number.
According to reports, the promotion was scheduled to run on the Facebook network of users 25-36 years old. The majority of people, in this case, millions and millions, who check Facebook, would never be exposed to the existing job opportunity.
Other big tech companies also offer employers opportunities to discriminate by age.
For example, ProPublica bought job ads on Google and LinkedIn that excluded audiences older than 40. The ads were instantly approved. Google actually stated it does not prevent advertisers from displaying ads based on the user’s age.
LinkedIn changed its system to prevent such targeting in employment ads after being contacted by ProPublica.
Just this week, a class action complaint alleging age discrimination was filed in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of the Communications Workers of America and its members.
Facebook users, 40 or older who may have been denied the chance to learn about job openings are also being represented in the complaint.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs’ said the complaint was based on ads for dozens of companies discovered on Facebook.
Verizon has yet to respond.
If you are 40 and older, let us know if any recruiters from these companies reach out to you in the coming weeks.
We’d love to hear from you.