A filing with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of millions of women alleges that Facebook’s targeting capabilities allow employers to illegally discriminate in job ads.
In charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) this week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) claims that Facebook’s approach to job listings runs afoul of federal anti-discrimination law.
The complaint—filed on behalf of three named women, the Communications Workers of America, and a class of millions of female job seekers nationwide—claims that Facebook and nine employers discriminated against women in targeted job postings on the social network. Facebook allows employers to target ads based on a series of demographics, including age, gender, and location. The job seekers say the listings, which promoted opportunities in male-dominated fields, targeted men only, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In comments to USA Today, Galen Sherwin, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, said that Facebook “is creating the mechanisms by which employers can elect to unlawfully target their advertisements based on gender and age.”
The employers listed in the complaint include a software developer, an employment agency, a moving service, a number of retailers, and the police department for the city of Greensboro, North Carolina.
In comments to The New York Times, employment attorney Debra Katz, who is not involved in the case, said the conduct described in the complaint “seems pretty egregious. The fact that [the employers are] using this tool to facilitate discrimination absolves neither the hiring business nor Facebook.”
The same practice has previously been called out as discriminatory based on age. Last year, ProPublica and The New York Times found that many employers were using age restrictions in their Facebook ads targeting potential job applicants. The effect, the report noted, was that many potential applicants were not even aware of the open positions.
Facebook Vice President of Ads Rob Goldman defended the targeting strategy at the time, comparing it to running ads in magazines or on TV shows that target a certain demographic. “What matters is that marketing is broadly based and inclusive, not simply focused on a particular age group,” he wrote in a letter to ProPublica.
This week, Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne told the Times that discrimination is “strictly prohibited in our policies. We are reviewing the complaint and look forward to defending our practices.”