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Facebook: Class-Action Suit For Its Ads Targeting Younger Employees

By Marianne Jennings



Some of the nation's largest companies do their advertising for jobs on Facebook with indications that they want to reach the 18-38 age group.  T-Mobile stated so in its ads on Facebook.  Amazon also placed ads and put numbers on the ads telling Facebook to place the ads so that the company could reach "ages 22-40" or ages 18-50."  In one ad, T-Mobile included its specifications at"people between the ages of 18 and 38 who live in or recently visited the United States." Facebook let the ads go through, and the suit filed in San Francisco federal court alleges that the discovery of the targeted recruiting explains why so few job candidates over 40 ever had the opportunity to see the opportunities that some of the nation's largest employers had available.Jessica Guynn, "Facebook Ads Are Subject of Age Discrimination Suit," USA Today, December 22, 2017, p....  Cox Communications placed an age limit of 38 on who would be able to see its ads. You can read the complaint here. The suit was brought by the Communications Workers of America Union and include three individual plaintiffs.  The lawyers for the plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for the suit. 



The employers were availing themselves of the opportunity to use Facebook's microtargeting skills, something that allows the social media page to better direct ads to those who are most likely to fit the companies' desired age ranges. However, with mircotargeting the result is that many looking for work in the age brackets excluded do not have the opportunity to know of job availability. However as the complaint notes, Facebook users who were not within the groups to whom Facebook sent the messages, those above the age range would not have been given the opportunity to apply for the jobs. 



Under the Age in Discrimination Act(ADEA), it is unlawful for employers to discriminate on the basis of age for any applicant over the age of 40. Many companies place ads in other forms of advertising hoping to reach target candidates for jobs. The placement of the ads itself would not be a violation of ADEA.  However, putting limited numbers on the ads, as the plaintiffs cite in their suit, would be a violation of ADEA.


Amazon recently did a study on its ads and has removed the age-range specifications in order to be consistent with its internal policy of allowing all recruiting ads to reach those over the age of 18. Facebook is not named in the suit, but Amazon, Cox, and T-Mobile are along with employment agencies. 




Explain what the companies were doing in placing ads with Facebook.


Can employers target certain audiences in recruiting without violating the ADEA?