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Union sues employers over Facebook advertising practices

Many employers in New York and around the country have turned to social media in recent years to meet their recruiting needs, and platforms like Facebook allow them to target their advertising to specific parts of the country or particular demographic groups. While it may be wise for businesses to take steps to ensure that their help-wanted ads are seen by candidates who are qualified to fill the positions on offer, labor advocacy groups have accused some employers of violating federal law by using social media advertising filters to prevent older workers from seeing available jobs.

The Communications Workers of America is one such group, and the labor union filed a lawsuit in a California federal court that accuses companies including Amazon, Cox Communications and T-Mobile of flouting The 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act by using Facebook filters to prevent their help-wanted advertising being viewed by older workers. Facebook is not named as a defendant in the employment discrimination litigation, but the Menlo Park-based company responded to reports of the lawsuit by saying that it did not treat older job candidates unfairly.

Some of the help-wanted ads described in the legal action could only be viewed by candidates younger than 38 years of age. Amazon responded to the litigation by announcing that it would no longer use social media filters to exclude members of a federally protected class, but other defendants refused to make any statements while the matter is pending.

Gathering evidence in workplace discrimination lawsuits can be challenging as many of the individuals who have stories to tell may be worried about retaliation or losing their jobs. Attorneys with experience in this kind of litigation will likely be aware of this, and they may check an employer’s help-wanted advertising, company policy and procedure manuals and even its marketing efforts for signs of discriminatory practices or attitudes.