Facebook has been in the news quite a bit lately over alleged wrongdoing in the social media giant’s business practices.
There have been allegations surrounding the 2016 presidential election. And there have been numerous allegations of intentional or at least negligent violations of basic privacy protections when it comes to user data. Most recently, Facebook is on the hot seat for supporting alleged age bias by companies interested in hiring new employees—in this case, younger employees.
In a recent article for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Allen Smith, J.D., write that employers are using Facebook to block older users from seeing their job ads. Smith writes: “Facebook has been complicit in the age discrimination, said Peter Romer-Friedman, an attorney with Outten & Golden in Washington, D.C., and a lead attorney in the case. Hundreds of employers ‘consciously decided to exclude’ older workers by formatting their job ads so that only younger Facebook users will see them, he stated.”
Smith reports that Facebook vice-president of ads issued a statement pushing back on the allegations of the company’s complicity in age bias. “Simply showing certain job ads to different age groups on services like Facebook or Google may not in itself be discriminatory—just as it can be okay to run employment ads in magazines and on TV shows targeted at younger or older people,” says the statement. “What matters is that marketing is broadly based and inclusive, not simply focused on a particular age group. In addition, certain employers want to attract retirees, or recruit for jobs with specific age restrictions like the military or airline pilots.”
Ageism is alive and well in the 21st century, despite the fact that the baby boomer generation is still, by and large, firmly entrenched in the workplace.
Inclusion and diversity efforts go far beyond simply employing people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. It also means diversity and inclusion among people of different gender, sexual orientation, religion, age and ability. There are both legal and PR aspects of this. It’s arguable, as the Facebook case demonstrates, that it’s not necessarily illegal to target job ads at certain age groups. But companies will have to consider how age generally fits into their overall diversity and inclusion goals.
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