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Companies sued for targeting younger workers with Facebook job ads

student-849825_1920-300x200T-Mobile, Amazon, Cox Communications, Facebook and many other companies are defending a new class action lawsuit which alleges that they have engaged in systemic age discrimination by targeting younger workers with Facebook job advertising. The lawsuit seeks relief for millions of older workers who are excluded from this advertising.

These companies have allegedly used Facebook’s targeted advertising system to show job ads to Facebook users based on their ages. The lawsuit alleges that Facebook actually requires companies to select the age range of the people who will see the ad in their Facebook news feed.

The lawsuit includes examples of job ads which say that the person viewing it was targeted because of their age. For example, there is an advertisement for a position with Cox Media Group which says that the viewer is seeing the ad, in part, because they are between the ages of 20 and 45.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two former call center employees and the Communications Workers of America, a union that represents 700,000 workers in the U.S. and Canada. “Today, the primary way workers find out about job openings is online, including by getting job ads on Facebook. It’s not right if people my age are deliberately screened out, and I don’t even get the chance to hear about jobs that I know I have the skills to do,” said one of the former call center employees who filed the lawsuit.

Facebook has defended its practice of targeted advertising based on age. “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,” said Rod Goldman, Facebook’s VP of Ads.

Interestingly, the lawsuit alleges that the defendant companies violated the laws of several states but not the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and not the Maine Human Rights Act (MHRA). The plaintiffs’ attorneys appear to have selected state laws that do not require plaintiffs to pursue their claims through an administrative process before filing a lawsuit. The MHRA bars age discrimination but it also requires a plaintiff to file a charge with the Maine Human Rights Commission in order for the plaintiff to be entitled to all of the remedies available under the MHRA. Thus, if the types of practices identified in this lawsuit are occurring in Maine, a separate lawsuit under the MHRA could be pursued.