Online Ads Screen Out Older Workers, Lawsuit Alleges

July 12, 2018 – More and more employers are using social media to target job applicants. A 2015 survey by recruiting software company Jobvite found that 92% of job recruiters used social media to recruit new employees. And with over two billion monthly active users, Facebook has quickly become a preferred platform for many employers. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 66% of employers who use social media to find workers use Facebook. In addition to its sheer size, organizations use Facebook for the tools it provides for targeting advertising. The data Facebook has collected on users allows recruitment ads to be precisely targeted based on a number of demographics, including age. This targeting is at the foundation of a national age discrimination class action lawsuit filed by older workers against some of the largest companies in the U.S. 

Overview of Age Discrimination Lawsuit

In December 2017, the Communication Workers of America (CWA) labor union filed a class action lawsuit against T-Mobile, Amazon, Cox Communications, Minnesota-based Sleep Number Corp. and hundreds of other employers and employment agencies asserting that these companies use Facebook ads to unlawfully screen out older workers to target younger job seekers in violation of state laws that prohibit age discrimination, including the Minnesota Human Rights Act. As a result, older workers missed job opportunities because they never saw the job postings.

In May 2018, the CWA filed an amended complaint (Bradley et al v. T-Mobile US, Inc. et al, 5:17-cv-07232) to add federal age discrimination claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Further, the amended complaint identifies more named defendant-employers—including IKEA and Facebook—and asserts that Facebook and its algorithm discriminate against older workers by using age to decide which users will receive the employment ads, thereby adding to the problem of employers already selecting a younger target manually. As such, these employers systematically exclude older workers from advertising, recruitment efforts and job opportunities.

The lawsuit seeks back pay and other damages for the three named plaintiffs, more than 140,000 CWA union members over age 40, and millions of other older, similarly-situated workers. Further, it seeks to permanently enjoin these companies from continuing these discriminatory practices.

Lawsuit Demonstrates Challenges Older Workers Face in Today’s Economy

Despite 50 years of older worker protection under the ADEA, age discrimination persists. According to a new report issued last week by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), outdated perceptions about age and abilities of older employees are common, even though today’s workers are more educated, more experienced and remain in the workforce longer than prior generations. Even with a strong economy and low unemployment, an older worker who loses their job will “endure the longest period of unemployment compared to other age groups and will likely take a significant pay cut if she becomes re-employed” the EEOC says.

Employees in existing jobs face discriminatory treatment based on age, as well. According to the EEOC report, 6 out of 10 older employees have seen or experienced age discrimination in their workplace, yet only about 3% complained to their employers about it. Not only does age discrimination cause considerable financial and emotional harm to older employees and their families, but the American economy loses the talent, knowledge and experience that these workers provide.

Minnesota Employment Law and Age Discrimination Lawyers
If you believe you have suffered discrimination, harassment or hostility because of your age, the attorneys at Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP want to hear from you. We are committed to protecting the rights of employees who have suffered unlawful workplace discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Contact us at 612-252-3570 or click here for a free initial consultation.

 

For more information about age discrimination, please see the following articles: