Is it Against the Law to Target Job Ads at Younger Workers?

One of the primary functions of a Human Resources department is to be aware of and ensure compliance with a wide range of laws and regulations involving workplace conduct, such as sexual harassment and various forms of discrimination.


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However, there are also plenty of laws and regulations that apply to the hiring process, as well, even if the conduct doesn’t actually take place during an interview or in the office.

Age-Related Preferences

A recent story by NPR’s Morning Edition discusses the growing prevalence of lawsuits accusing certain employers of age discrimination in their hiring practices. “When an employer sets out to recruit young people for a certain job, is it discriminating against older job seekers in a way that breaks the law?” the article asks.

It’s a question that is being increasingly asked—and it’s one that is prompting several lawsuits launched by older workers who feel that the decks may be stacked against them.

NPR tells the story of Linda Bradley, 45, who lost her job of 20 years at a call center and began suspecting age discrimination when her 26-year-old daughter was seeing advertisements targeted at her on social media that Bradley herself wasn’t seeing. She is now a plaintiff in an age discrimination case brought against T-Mobile, Facebook, and other companies.

Workers 40+ Are Protected

It’s an issue that isn’t always top of mind when thinking about age discrimination. “Workplace civil rights law prohibits discrimination against workers 40 and older,” NPR writes.

While employers and HR professionals should know this, some of their actions may fly in the face of these protections. Whether intentional or unintentional, these actions can be problematic. The ability to finely target potential jobseekers through online or social media advertising can fuel the flames.

As worker advocates point out, recruiters often exclude older jobseekers as they narrow their search criteria for qualified candidates. Another suit mentioned by NPR even challenges the common practice of recruiting exclusively on college campuses. And another challenge is whether employers can place a limit on the number of years of experience required for a job.

Exercise Caution

While these cases aren’t resolved yet, at least at the time of this writing, they highlight an important issue HR professionals need to be aware of in their hiring practices. Even if these cases are ultimately decided in favor of the employers, the legal bills involved can be tremendous.

If you haven’t already, now would be a good time to audit your recruitment practices to ensure that you aren’t inadvertently discriminating against older workers.

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