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Older plaintiffs allege age discrimination via technology

Last December, the Communication Workers of America and three others sued numerous big corporations, such as Amazon, Ikea and the University of Maryland Medical Center, alleging the defendants discriminate against older job applicants by advertising the open positions on Facebook. In turn, the plaintiffs allege, Facebook’s algorithms target younger applicants, thereby discriminating against older people who might want to apply. Neither Facebook nor any employment agencies are named as defendants in the lawsuit.


In May, through their high-powered attorney, Peter Romer-Friedman, a civil rights lawyer with Outten & Golden, the plaintiffs amended their initial complaint in several ways. For one, additional defendants were added. The plaintiffs are also arguing their civil rights were violated under federal law, expanding their initial complaint that only their state civil rights were treaded upon.

According to Craig Petronella, owner of Petronella Technology Group and an expert in IT cybersecurity and Blockchain technology, the plaintiff’s arguments actually have some merit.

“Facebook certainly can control the targeting of job posts. Facebook has one of the most advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms for marketing systems where marketers/employers can really pinpoint who, where, when ads/posts are shown. Metrics such as age, race, location, income, friends, what users like/dislike, and other demographics/psychographic factors are available. Once the marketer/employer selects the audience of their job posting, the “delivery” is in the hands of the FB algorithm to “comply” with the metrics you set, but the user doesn’t have control over how the algorithm actually delivers and shows the posts and to whom,” says Petronella.

To date, none of the named defendants have filed an answer in the lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.



Tami Kamin Meyer is an Ohio attorney and writer. She tweets as @girlwithapen.

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