A recently released study suggests that some of the largest employers in California and around the country use social media sites like Facebook to make their job listings available only to members of certain demographic groups. Online platforms allow advertisers to target their messages by screening for factors such as gender and age, but labor advocates say that using these filters when available jobs are being posted violates federal laws, including the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.
The study, which was released by the New York Times and the nonprofit group ProPublica, reveals that companies including Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Verizon and Target use social media filters to ensure that only younger job seekers are able to view their available positions. A Facebook representative dismissed claims of circumventing federal employment laws and pointed out that employers have always been able to target their job postings by advertising them in magazines and during television shows that cater to the audiences they seek.
However, Facebook has taken this kind of allegation more seriously in the past. In November 2016, the social media giant changed its rules to prevent advertisers from blocking particular racial or ethnic groups from seeing their messages. While Google joined Facebook in dismissing claims that their advertising practices violate federal workplace discrimination laws, the networking website LinkedIn responded to the investigation by announcing that it would no longer allow job vacancies to be filtered to exclude older candidates.
Attorneys with experience in this area may use help wanted advertising that excludes or discourages certain candidates to help establish a pattern of discriminatery behavior in lawsuits filed on behalf of workers that have been treated unfairly. The penalties for violating state or federal labor laws can be severe, and lawyers may urge employers to settle these matters quickly when this type of evidence could be used against them.