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Study implies age discrimination in social media job advertising

Older workers in New York and around the country are protected against discrimination in the workplace by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The 1967 federal law covers workers who are 40 years of age or older, but a recent investigation by the nonprofit group ProPublica and the New York Times suggests that some of the nation's largest companies are advertising their job openings on social media platforms like Facebook to avoid older candidates and attract younger applicants.

Social media allows advertisers to target specific audiences based on factors including gender and age, and some labor advocates say that these practices are discriminatory and illegal when they are used to exclude certain types of job candidates. However, a senior Facebook executive said that targeted recruitment efforts on social media are no different than advertising job openings on television shows or in magazines that skew to an older or younger demographic.

Facebook has been criticized in the past for allowing employers to exclude certain classes of job candidates, and the company responded in November 2016 by announcing that advertisers would no longer be able to target specific racial or ethnic groups. Other companies investigated by ProPublica and the New York Times include Google and LinkedIn. While Google responded to the allegations in much the same way that Facebook did, a LinkedIn representative said that the company has modified its advertising platform to prevent age discrimination in the future.

Employers that are concerned about employment discrimination litigation may study the way employers advertise job openings closely to get a better understanding of their corporate cultures and employment practices. Proving that an employer nurtured a hostile work environment is often crucial in these cases, and job openings that are targeted at specific demographic groups could be used by attorneys to help establish a pattern of discriminatory behavior.

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