Facebook, Amazon, T-Mobile, others sued over age discrimination in Facebook employment ads

Amazon, T-Mobile, Cox Communications and other companies are facing a lawsuit accusing them of discriminating against older workers by using targeted employment ads on Facebook.

Three workers and the Communications Workers of America are asking that such practices be declared in violation of “various state laws prohibiting age discrimination in employment,” according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco. The lawsuit also names “similarly situated employers and employment agencies” — including Facebook.

Those companies include “hundreds of major American employers and employment agencies that, upon information and belief, routinely exclude older workers from receiving their employment and recruiting ads on Facebook, and thus deny older workers job opportunities,” the plaintiffs say.

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The lawsuit came on the same day a ProPublica/New York Times report detailed how companies are able to exclude older workers in employment ads on Facebook, and after other reports this year found discrimination against other groups by way of Facebook’s ad micro-targeting capabilities.

In response to the report, Facebook’s vice president of ads, Rob Goldman, in a blog post defended both Facebook’s own use of age targeting in its own employment ads and its tool that allows others to do the same.

“These individual ads are part of broader-based recruitment efforts designed to reach all ages and all backgrounds,” Goldman said of Facebook’s use of age-targeted employment ads.

As for Facebook’s ad-targeting tools, Goldman said “simply showing certain job ads to different age groups on services like Facebook or Google may not in itself be discriminatory — just as it can be OK to run employment ads in magazines and on TV shows targeted at younger or older people.”

Facebook’s ability to drill down when targeting ads has shown to be too good in some instances. For example, ProPublica last year found that the company’s ad tools allowed advertisers buying housing-related ads to exclude people by “ethnic affinities.”

Last month, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said the company would pause its ad tools’ ability to exclude ad targets based on race and ethnicity.

For more on this story, see the Mercury News version, which will be updated.


Photo by KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images



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