The ACLU, Outten & Golden LLP, and the Communications Workers of America filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Facebook and 10 other employers for unlawfully discriminating on the basis of gender by targeting their job ads on Facebook to male Facebook users only, excluding all women and non-binary users from receiving the ads.
The charges were filed on behalf of three female workers, CWA and the hundreds of thousands of female workers CWA represents, and a class of millions of women allegedly denied information on job opportunities due to their gender. As the charges allege, most of the employers’ male-targeted ads highlighted jobs in male-dominated fields.
“I’ve heard stories about when people looked for jobs in the classified ads and big bold letters read ‘help wanted-male’ or ‘help wanted-female.’ I was shocked to find that this discrimination is still happening, just online instead of in newspapers,” said Bobbi Spees, a job-seeker and lead complainant in the case. “I shouldn’t be shut out of the chance to hear about a job opportunity just because I am a woman.”
Facebook has come under heavy scrutiny regarding its paid advertising platform, and whether it allows and encourages advertisers to engage in prohibited discrimination based on protected categories like race, national origin, age, and now gender.
The charges filed today allege that Facebook delivers job ads selectively based on age and sex categories that employers expressly choose, and that Facebook earns revenue from placing job ads that exclude women and older workers from receiving the ads. Targeting job ads by sex is unlawful under federal, state, and local civil rights laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“Sex segregated job advertising has historically been used to shut women out of well-paying jobs and economic opportunities,” said Galen Sherwin, Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “We can’t let gender-based ad targeting online give new life to a form of discrimination that should have been eradicated long ago.”
“The internet did not erase our civil rights laws. It violates the law if an employer uses Facebook to deny job ads to women,” said Peter Romer-Friedman, an attorney at Outten & Golden, a workers’ rights law firm. “The last time I checked, you don’t have to be a man to be a truck driver or a police officer. But Facebook and employers are acting like it’s the 1950s, before federal employment law banned sex discrimination.”
“Our members have been on the frontlines ensuring that women have opportunities to apply to and be hired for any job they’re qualified to do,” said Sara Steffens, Secretary-Treasurer of the Communications Workers of America. “Despite the progress we have made, stereotypes and biases clearly still influence corporate hiring strategies. Shame on these employers for targeting ads based on gender, and shame on Facebook for facilitating this practice.”
Although online platforms are generally not liable for publishing content created by others, the charges assert that Facebook can be held legally responsible for: (1) creating and operating the system that allows and encourages employers to select the gender and age of the people who get their job ads, including providing employers with data on users’ gender and age for targeting purposes; (2) delivering the gender- and age-based ads based on employers’ preferences; and (3) acting as a recruiter connecting employers with prospective employees.
In the EEOC charges filed today, the ACLU and Outten & Golden represent Bobbi Spees of McKean County, Pennsylvania, Linda Bradley of Franklin County, Ohio, Renia Hudson of Chicago, Illinois, the Communications Workers of America, an international union that represents over 700,000 workers, and a Class of millions of women who were denied job ads by Facebook and employers.
The employer and employment agency advertisers named in the EEOC charges are:
- Abas USA, a global software developer
- Defenders, a leading installer of home security systems
- Nebraska Furniture Mart, a major retailer of home furniture
- City of Greensboro, NC Police Department
- Need Work Today, an employment agency that procures workers for farm, construction, trucking and aviation employers
- Renewal by Andersen LLC, one of the largest window replacement and installation companies in America
- Rice Tire, a tire retailer and provider of auto repair services with locations throughout Maryland and Virginia
- JK Moving Services, the largest independent moving company in America
- Enhanced Roofing & Modeling, a roofing and remodeling company based in the Washington, D.C. metro area;
- Xenith, an athletics equipment manufacturer and retailer