EEOC Says Facebook Job Ads by Seven Companies Discriminated by Sex and Age

Author: Robert S. Teachout, XpertHR Legal Editor

October 3, 2019

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released determinations finding seven corporations posted Facebook job advertisements that discriminated against women and older workers. The agency found "reasonable cause" to believe the companies violated both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) by using language and settings in the social media ads that limited the target audience to "male" and "younger" applicants.

Title VII bans employers from indicating a gender-based preference when advertising employment opportunities. Meanwhile, the ADEA has a similar prohibition on ads that discriminate against potential applicants who are 40 years of age or older.

The EEOC said that the following companies posted job ads excluding older workers:

  • Capital One;
  • Enterprise Holdings;
  • Edward Jones; and
  • Drive Time Auto.

The agency also found that three other companies excluded women and older workers from viewing job ads:

  • Nebraska Furniture Mart;
  • Renewal by Andersen; and
  • Sandhills Publishing Company.

The use of Facebook targeting tools by companies to prevent older workers from seeing job ads was first reported in December 2017 by the New York Times and Pro Publica, followed by a September 2018 report showing that some companies also were restricting ad views to men.

Although the EEOC made these determinations in July, they are being made public now in connection with a class action suit filed by the Communications Workers of America and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of older workers.

The workers claim to have missed job opportunities because employers used Facebook's targeting tools and algorithms to direct ads to a younger audience of potential applicants. Facebook reached a settlement with the plaintiffs in March to make changes to prevent advertisers from discriminating in job, housing and credit ads on its platform in the future.

Galen Sherwin, Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU Women's Rights Project, said these rulings will have far-reaching consequences. "Today's job seekers increasingly use online platforms rather than traditional help-wanted ads to find jobs, and more and more employers use social media and other digital tools to advertise to and recruit workers," Sherwin said, and these rulings send a message that "employers don't get a pass to avoid anti-discrimination laws simply by posting their ads online."