Facebook Job Ads and Age Discrimination

Is it unlawful for Facebook to target certain age groups with job ads?

Facebook is known as a relatively youthful company.  Facebook and many other companies routinely place job ads on social media that target younger employees.  As the internet era makes it easier for companies to attract employees of a certain age, it raises some interesting issues as to whether targeted ads constitute employment discrimination.  Our NYC employment discrimination lawyers at Thomas M. Lancia PLLC discuss the legality of age targeted ads below.

Targeted Ads on Facebook

Targeted ads have become a central component to Facebook.  Users logging into Facebook will find themselves looking at ads that have clearly been targeted to them.  Ad targeting has been found to be more effective than traditional advertising, allowing the advertiser’s budget to go more directly towards an audience with interest in the product or job.  For Facebook, job advertisements will generally be targeted towards individuals between the ages of 18 and 59 who live in a certain region.  The question becomes, are these targeted employment ads legal?

The ADEA and Job Ads

Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), employers cannot legally discriminate against people 40 years of age and older.  Age discrimination involves treating an employee less favorably due to his or her age.  Age discrimination could encompass acts such as hiring a younger, similarly qualified candidate over an older one, firing an employee due to their age, and failing to promote an older employee.

Targeted ads will display a job ad to only the age groups selected by the advertiser.  At least one lawsuit has been filed claiming that such targeted job advertising constitutes unlawful job discrimination.  In December of 2017, a lawsuit was filed in federal court seeking class action status to represent Facebook users over the age of 40 who were denied the opportunity to learn about certain open job descriptions.  The lawsuit remains pending.

Facebook has defended targeted job ads by stating that showing certain job ads based on age is not in and of itself discriminatory.  Rather, what matters according to Facebook, is that the marketing is inclusive and not solely based on a certain age group.  Older Americans should watch the federal lawsuit closely as it will be interesting to see how the court rules.  Anyone who believes they are being discriminated against due to their age should consult with an employment discrimination lawyer.