Facebook Faces Allegations of Job Ads that Discriminate Against Women
When an employer creates an ad that excludes a protected class, grounds often exist for a discrimination lawsuit. For example, when writing most employment ads, it is illegal for employers to exclude applicants based on age or race.
According to a New York Times article, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) filed charges with the EEOC on behalf of female workers against nine employers and Facebook.
Why Was Facebook Included in the Lawsuit?
Facebook provides targeting technology for ads. It can target particular demographics and when an employer is placing an ad, Facebook asks the employer to indicate gender — that is to say, should the ad go to males only, females only or all. Facebook uses algorithms to match an ad with a specific subgroup.
The attorneys bringing the case are arguing that having employer specify male or female is discriminatory and illegal when it applies to jobs that either sex can do. Facebook differs from newspapers with classic ad submission where the content of the ad is simply printed and goes out to anyone who purchases the newspaper.
In the past, Facebook has used the Communications Decency Act as its strongest defense against such accusations. The Communications Decency Act is a federal law that shields internet companies against liability for content generated by third parties.
The lawyers bringing the lawsuit argue that in this situation, employers are using the Facebook platform to be selective in the creation or development of the unlawful content. The interface enables employers to selectively exclude women from jobs that they could potentially also do.
Federal law also prohibits recruiting agencies from discriminating through advertising campaigns that exclude job candidates based on gender and other protected classes (age, disability, race, ethnicity, military status, etc.) State laws also forbid such agencies from aiding in discrimination.
While Facebook does not promote itself as a recruiting agency, many employers use it for recruitment and as a means to reach potential job candidates through ads. Facebook finds itself in a unique position when a group of men receive ads simply because they are men and often because they are men of a certain again and geographical area.
From a legal standpoint, internet technology like Facebook uses is still subject to case precedents, which will decide whether selecting “male only” is legal or not for recruitment ads and which parties are liable.
Our attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates are glad to discuss employment issues and help business owners create discrimination-free work environments.