Facebook facing age-discrimination lawsuit in US

Josh Eidelson

A proposed US class action lawsuit alleging Facebook’s ad placement tools facilitate discrimination against older job-seekers has been expanded to identify additional companies, further widening the latest front in claims that candidates are being filtered out by gender, geography, race and age.

“When Facebook’s own algorithm disproportionately directs ads to younger workers at the exclusion of older workers, Facebook and the advertisers who are using Facebook as an agent to send their advertisements are engaging in disparate treatment,” a communications union alleged in the amended complaint — citing a legal test for employment discrimination — filed yesterday in a San Francisco federal court.

The union added claims under California’s fair employment and unfair competition statutes to the lawsuit, which was initially filed in December.

The Communications Workers of America is suing on behalf of union members and other jobseekers who allegedly missed out on employment opportunities because companies used Facebook’s ad tools to target people of other ages.

The original filing named defendants are Amazon.com, Cox Media, Cox Communications and T-Mobile, as well as what the union estimates to be hundreds of employers and employment agencies who used Facebook’s tools to filter out older job hunters when seeking to fill positions.

The amended filing adds Ikea, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and the University of Maryland Medical System to its list of companies who allegedly used Facebook’s tools to filter by age. Those three entities, as well as Facebook, aren’t named defendants in the lawsuit.

The union alleged in its amended lawsuit that Facebook also uses age-filtering in ads intended to find its own new employees. In January, the union filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint about the alleged practice, according to a copy obtained by Bloomberg News.

The Communications Workers of America says it has filed similar claims against dozens of companies, and that the agency has asked those employers, and Facebook, to respond to the allegations.

In a December statement, Facebook vice president of advertisements Rob Goldman said “Facebook tailors our employment ads by audience” and “we completely reject the allegation that these advertisements are discriminatory”.

Regarding other companies, he said the company helps educate advertisers about their legal responsibilities and requires them to certify that they are complying with the law.

Bloomberg

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