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Leading companies may be using social media to skirt labor laws

Online platforms like Facebook, Google and LinkedIn allow employers in New York and around the country to focus their help wanted advertising by using demographic filters. However, the results of a recent investigation conducted by the New York Times and ProPublica suggest that some of the nation's largest companies are using these features to skirt labor laws prohibiting age discrimination. The companies mentioned in the report include Goldman Sachs, Target, Amazon, Verizon and even Facebook itself.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which was signed into law in 1967, prohibits employers from discriminating against job candidates for being age 40 or older. However, the investigation alleges that employers are using the tools offered by online recruitment platforms to make their available positions inaccessible to older candidates. When asked about the findings, a senior Facebook executive denied that using the social media platform to reach a particular audience was discriminatory and said that the practice was no different than advertising job vacancies in magazines read by certain demographic groups.

In September 2017, Facebook took a different position and changed its guidelines when another ProPublica investigation discovered that advertisers were using the platform to discriminate based on race and ethnicity. While Facebook and Google continue to allow recruiters to use age filters to target their advertising, the networking website LinkedIn chose to end the practice after being contacted by ProPublica.

Attorneys with experience in this area may scrutinize the job advertisements of employers accused of treating their workers unfairly. If necessary, lawyers could use job postings that are designed to exclude groups protected under federal law as evidence in age discrimination lawsuits.

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