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Is It Discriminatory to Show Job Ads to Only Young Social Media Users?

A woman laying on a bed with a laptop on her lap.

Recruiting tactics that make a company's job ads visible to younger candidates but not to older candidates could mean employers are excluding older job seekers. But is microtargeting a violation of civil rights law?

Some pending lawsuits claim it is discriminatory. One suit, filed by the Communications Workers of America against T-Mobile US Inc., Inc., Cox Communications Inc. and Cox Media Group, claims these employers "routinely exclude older workers from receiving their employment and recruiting ads on Facebook" by targeting ads in a way that prevents older workers from seeing them, effectively denying them job opportunities.

If the courts agree, the wins are expected to improve the employment scene for older Americans.

SHRM Online has collected the following articles from its archives and other sources about age discrimination in recruiting practices.  

Are Job Ads That Target Young Workers Breaking the Law? 

Workplace civil rights law prohibits discrimination against workers 40 and older. Yet worker advocates say recruiters sometimes exclude older workers by narrowing how and where they look for candidates. A recent lawsuit has challenged whether an employer can recruit exclusively on college campuses. Another is challenging whether it's legal to cap the number of years of experience an applicant can have.

ADEA's Reach Expanded to Job Applicants 

For years the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has advised that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) applies to job applicants, not just current employees, in disparate impact cases, but a 2016 appeals court decision ruled otherwise. Now, another appeals court has reached the same conclusion as the EEOC's, creating a split the Supreme Court may have to resolve. 
(SHRM Online)  

[SHRM members-only tool kit: Employing Older Workers]  

Discrimination Against Older Workers May Be Common but Hard to Prove 

Age discrimination is very difficult to prove, workplace experts say.

The things that employers say, write or insinuate about age can be so subtle that they don't provide a smoking gun that can prove discrimination, said Laurie McCann, a senior attorney for the AARP Foundation Litigation. 
(SHRM Online)  

Millennials In, Boomers Out? Lawsuit Against IBM Claims Age Discrimination in Hiring  

The long-time rumblings about age discrimination at IBM have finally produced a lawsuit. A 60-year-old Texas man alleges in a suit filed May 25 that he was improperly laid off amid the company's push to hire Millennials. 

AG Ferguson Investigation Leads to Facebook Making Nationwide Changes to Prohibit Discriminatory Advertisements on its Platform

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced July 24 that Facebook signed a legally binding agreement with his office to make significant changes to its advertising platform by removing the ability of third-party advertisers to exclude ethnic and religious minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals and other protected groups from seeing their ads.

Advertisers of housing, credit, employment, insurance and public accommodations can no longer discriminate by excluding protected groups. The impacts will be nationwide.
(Washington state Office of the Attorney General)  

Age Discrimination  

The ADEA forbids discriminating against people age 40 or older. It is not illegal for an employer or other covered entity to favor an older worker over a younger one, even if both workers are age 40 or older. The law prohibits discrimination in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.
(Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)


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