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Can employers exhibit age discrimination in job advertising?

On Behalf of | Jun 4, 2021 | Employer Defense

You may have heard of age discrimination in the workplace. But what about age discrimination in a job vacancy announcement?

There has been a growing trend by employers in recent years to advertise employment vacancies on social media. Facebook ads are one of the most popular avenues for such advertising. But are there risks associated with posting your company’s vacancy announcements on Facebook?

How does Facebook ad targeting work?

When you create a Facebook ad, you’re prompted to fill out a form detailing the audience demographic you’re trying to reach. You can filter according to users’ interests, age and geographic location – among other factors. For example, if your microbrewery is hosting a beer festival in Oceanside, you might create an ad targeting beer enthusiasts age 21 and over who live within a 50-mile radius. Seems pretty straightforward, right?

Not necessarily. Facebook targeting creates an ethical gray area when it comes to job postings. If a recruiter posts a job announcement and only makes it visible to Facebook users under the age of 40, for instance, then an entire subset of the job-seeking population misses the opportunity to even apply.

Legal ramifications

Verizon, Amazon, Target and Facebook are on the growing list of big-name employers that have been accused of discriminatory job advertisements. They have been involved in a class-action lawsuit, which claims they have unfairly used Facebook ad targeting to zero in on younger applicants. These employers – and many others – have been sued for age discrimination based on their recruitment strategy.

What can employers do?

Embracing new technology and adapting to changing communication trends can help to set businesses up for success. All signs indicate the social media is here to stay, so it only makes sense for employers to make use of this medium in order to remain competitive. However, it’s important to realize that using social media has built-in risks – and one ill-conceived post could land your company in legal trouble.

This is one of the reasons that keeping an employment attorney on retainer can be so valuable. Your attorney can review your company’s policies and procedures to ensure you’re operating within the parameters of the law. Establishing a solid legal foundation for company operations can also help your attorney to build a solid defense for you in the event that you face an employment discrimination suit down the road.