Facebook recruiting practices lead to lawsuits for employers

Posted by Charles Middleton on 01/23/2018

Q: Can employers face liability for their online job advertisements?

A: That's what a recent class action lawsuit filed by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) claims. The CWA sued several large companies, including T-Mobile US Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Cox Communications Inc., alleging that the companies are discriminating against older workers by limiting the audience for their Facebook advertisements to reach only younger users.

Q: What is it that the employers allegedly did to prompt the lawsuit?

A: The employers placed ads on Facebook that either targeted Facebook users in certain age groups, like younger individuals, or individuals living in a certain geographic area. This practice is called microtargeting and is one of the advertising features that make other types of online advertising efficient and effective. Many of the ads included a disclosure by Facebook about why the Facebook user was seeing the ad, such as the company wanted to “reach people ages 25 to 36 who live or were recently near Washington, District of Columbia.”

Q: Is microtargeting of job applicants limited to Facebook?

A: No. LinkedIn and Google users have been able to micro-target audiences on those social media platforms as well. In response to the lawsuit and media inquires, the social media platforms and some companies have revised their online job postings and practices.

Q: Are job postings that target younger workers illegal?

A: The Age Discrimination in Employment Act expressly applies to hiring and states that it's unlawful for an employer “to fail or refuse to hire” any individual because of such individual's age. Disappointed applicants often sue claiming they weren't hired because of their age. Online job postings are no different than hard copy ads in a local newspaper. The act covers individuals age 40 and older.

Q: What can employers do to avoid claims over their online recruiting practices?

A: An employer can audit its online job postings and other recruiting materials for any age-specific references or placements that may limit viewing to younger viewers. An employer also can make sure its overall recruiting strategy includes job advertisements in media that individuals of any age can receive or access.

PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER

Published The Oklahoman, January 23, 2018