A federal lawsuit filed on behalf of the Communication Workers of America alleges that Facebook and other employers discriminated against older workers by utilizing algorithms that prevented them from becoming aware of targeted ads with job postings.
The original complaint, filed in December, coincided with a published report in the New York Times that questioned the policies regarding elders of employers posting online job ads. Facebook would later limit the abilities of agencies posting ads for jobs to exclude app users in certain demographic groups but did not change the ability of job posters to use age as a discriminating factor.
The filing by CWA was amended on Tuesday to now include additional complaints that include the allegation that Facebook practices open discrimination against older workers by allowing job posters to post ads for what is known as “look-alike” audiences. Attorneys for CWA explain that these ads target a narrow demographic by setting their sites on people that similar to current employees of companies.
The lawsuit revision also includes language suggesting that Facebook algorithms further exacerbate discrimination against older workers by narrowing the age ranges chosen by job posters more than originally intended.
Enterprise, Ikea, and the Medical System of the University of Maryland were three companies added to the amended lawsuit to bring the total targeted entities to fifteen.
Ifeoma Ajunwa, a sociologist with Cornell University, says that this type of discrimination was exactly what proponents of online hiring said would be remedied by the practice. In reality, Ajunwa surmises, this discrimination against online job seekers is just as prevalent as it has become in “real-world” environments if not more.
Facebook and the other companies mentioned have not been named as defendants in the lawsuit that instead focuses on companies that CWA and its lawyers say have used the advertising targeting tools.
A spokesman for Facebook on Tuesday advised that the company had issued a response to the original allegations in December stating that age-related targeting for employment advertising is an accepted industry practice and when used responsibly does not result in discrimination.