Last week, UNI affiliate Communications Workers of America (CWA) lodged a lawsuit alleging hundreds of top tier companies, including Amazon.com, have been using Facebook ads to exclude older workers from getting access to job opportunities. The ground-breaking suit is shedding light on an underexposed employment practice that many companies have been using.
“We are in complete support of the CWA’s actions to protect workers from discrimination,” said UNI Global Union’s Head of ICTS Alke Boessiger. “We are living through a time of intense change in the labour market with digitalization and artificial intelligence transforming our economies. Many older workers are already feeling left behind by the sweeping and rapid changes of the digital era without discriminatory and unfair algorithms excluding them from seeing job opportunities.”
“We stand with the CWA in their fight for justice for workers of all ages. It’s fundamental that companies are not unscrupulously using the digital tools to lock out entire sections of the working population.”
Last week, workers and CWA announced new steps in their national campaign to stop age bias in online recruitment. The new developments include:
(1) Filing an amended federal court complaint that significantly expands the scope of the litigation against hundreds of employers that discriminated against older workers. The new complaint adds federal age bias claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act on behalf of all older workers 40 and over nationwide who were denied job ads by hundreds of employers, employment agencies, and Facebook. The case previously asserted only claims under certain state laws.
(2) The new complaint alleges that Facebook’s own algorithm discriminates against older workers, since it appears to use age to decide which Facebook users will receive job ads. The complaint alleges that this practice compounds the problem of employers manually selecting a younger age range of people who will receive their job ads.
(3) CWA and the older workers have disclosed for the first time that they have filed age discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against 38 employers and employment agencies, including Facebook. Eighteen of the charges were filed today. The EEOC has now opened a federal investigation against dozens of companies.
(4) The new complaint and EEOC charges identify by name dozens of major employers that used Facebook to send job and employment-related ads that were hidden from older workers. They include national and regional companies in virtually every industry, including: T-Mobile, Amazon.com, Cox Communications, Cox Media Group, Arhaus, Capital One, Citadel, Defenders, Facebook, Inc., Fairfield Residential, IKEA, Leidos, Sleep Number Corp., Triplebyte, Weichert Realtors, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, and the University of Maryland Medical System.
Jody Calemine, the chief of staff to CWA’s President, stated: “Our campaign seeks justice for every older worker who has been locked out of opportunities by employers who show their job ads to younger workers, but not to older ones. Today we are redoubling our efforts to ensure that everyone has a chance to learn about job opportunities and apply for those jobs. We are heartened that members of Congress from both parties and other advocates for older workers have condemned these harmful practices.”
Peter Romer-Friedman, a civil rights attorney at Outten & Golden LLP and former labor counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, stated: “Algorithms and ad platforms may not care about equal employment opportunity, but our civil rights laws require it. It’s deeply disturbing that major American companies apparently believe it’s an accepted and appropriate industry practice to hide job ads from older workers. The internet does not give a free license to discriminate.”