Are You “Accidentally” Discriminating in Hiring Practices?

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Are you “accidentally” discriminating in hiring practices? If you use Facebook and “boost” job postings selecting specific demographics for targeting that exclude protected classes, you may be.

The Communication Workers of America filed an amended complaint to their original December 2017 complaint to now include Inc, T-Mobile US Inc, Cox Communications Inc, Cox Media Group and a defendant class of unnamed companies, adding federal age bias claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

The union’s original lawsuit on behalf of older workers in San Francisco federal court alleged violations of various states’ anti-discrimination laws.

According to the lawsuit and as detailed in a recent Bloomberg article, those Facebook job ads you don’t see may be a result of “algorithmic ageism.”

The class-action lawsuit, filed in December 2017, alleges that Facebook is purposefully using algorithmic tools to feed job ads to younger workers. The Communications Workers of America claims this violates California’s fair employment and unfair competition statutes.

The group is suing on behalf of its membership and encourages other job-seekers who may have missed out on opportunities to join its efforts. It has also named Amazon, IKEA, T-Mobile, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Cox Media Group, and Cox Communications in its expanded filing.

The complaint estimates “hundreds” of employers and employment agencies that use Facebook’s tools are purposefully cutting out older professionals, and may have been filtering out candidates by race, gender, and geography, as well.

“When Facebook’s own algorithm disproportionately directs ads to younger workers at the exclusion of older workers, Facebook and the advertisers who are using Facebook as an agent to send their advertisements are engaging in disparate treatment.”

Union filing December 2017

In the amended complaint documents, CWA alleges that Facebook encourages advertisers to exclude some job-seekers by providing both age filters and regularly updated data on how ads perform among different age groups. The union also claims Facebook targets employment ads to “lookalike audiences” chosen for their demographic similarity to the people who already have a job at the same company, a practice which further marginalizes older job seekers.

The union also alleged that, “in addition to encouraging and allowing employers and employment agencies to restrict which Facebook users will receive job ads based on their age,” Facebook’s algorithm further factors in age when determining which users among the population chosen by the advertiser will actually see the ad.


The original complaint from December of 2017 details the CWA and the workers allegations stemming “…from an in-depth investigation, in which they discovered that hundreds of employers and employment agencies are illegally targeting their employment ads on Facebook to exclude older workers who fall outside specified age ranges (such as ages 18 to 40, or ages 22 to 45), purposely preventing these older workers from seeing the ads or pursuing job opportunities. The Complaint alleges that this practice constitutes a violation of federal, state, and local laws that bar age

discrimination in employment advertising, recruiting, and hiring.”

The Complaint identifies a number of additional large companies that allegedly exclude older workers from receiving their job ads on Facebook.

A year ago, an investigation by the news organization ProPublica found that Facebook’s platform made it possible for African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans to be excluded from receiving ads for various economic opportunities, including housing and employment ads.

Facebook’s own statement from December in response to the ProPublica article reads in part: “But in this case we disagree with ProPublica. 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.”

We’ll find out if the Courts agree.

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