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Facebook job ads accused of fostering discrimination

Civil rights advocates in New York have raised concerns about gender discrimination in job advertisements on Facebook. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 10 employers have placed Facebook advertisements for jobs that allegedly violate state and federal anti-discrimination laws. The ACLU filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in September 2018 about these employers’ practices, and the effort comes following changes earlier in the year to Facebook’s advertising system. While employers are no longer able to target job ads based on race, ethnicity or religion, they can still target ads to appear to certain users based on their gender.

In response to the allegations, Facebook said that it does not tolerate discrimination and will respond once it has the opportunity to review the complaint. According to the ACLU and the Communications Workers of America, Facebook’s practices allow advertisers to direct their job ads to users based on gender. Facebook ads can target women, men or people who identify as non-binary.

The EEOC complaint was filed on behalf of three women who allege that they were not shown several job ads in fields that are traditionally male dominated. Among the ads not shown to a female audience included those for mechanics, roofing workers, police officers and tire salespeople. The targeting guidelines used in a Facebook ad are publicly visible by viewing a drop-down menu next to the post. The advocates noted that women workers are denied the opportunity to learn about available jobs, unlike their male co-workers.

When women don’t learn about jobs they could apply for, they may face ongoing employment discrimination, especially as the job market moves increasingly toward social media. People who have faced gender discrimination in hiring or on the job may consult with an employment attorney about the actions available to pursue justice and accountability for the harms done.