Policy Summary
In July 2019 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) handed down a series of rulings in cases that were filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Communications Workers of America. The final rulings in the cases were not made available at the time. In September 2019 it was revealed that the set of cases had been filed against seven separate companies. Four of the companies that the EEOC ruled against – Capital One, Edward Jones, Enterprise Holdings and DriveTime Automotive Group – were age discrimination in hiring complaints. The three other companies that the EEOC ruled against – Nebraska Furniture Mart, Renewal by Andersen LLC and Sandhills Publishing Company – were for both age and gender discrimination in hiring complaints. The procedural rules of the EEOC now permit the companies to try to reach a settlement with the plaintiffs or continue to pursue the case in federal district court and further up on appeal. LEARN MORE

These set of cases from the EEOC are significant not because of their age or gender discrimination claims but because of where the discrimination occurred – on the Facebook online platform. Attorney Peter Romer – Friedman said, “This historic decision shows that our civil rights laws apply to digital advertising and recruiting.”

What makes these cases significant is that for the first time civil rights laws protecting discrimination against a person’s age or gender are being applied to actions taken by a company in the digital realm. What these companies did is advertise company job listings with their companies on their Facebook website. However, when they posted the job listings they also used tools provided by Facebook to filter who could and could not view the job listings. Facebook’s design and user interface allowed the companies to target the job listings to only young males. The tools provided by Facebook at the time prohibited women and persons over the age of fifty – five (55) from seeing the job listings posted by the companies.

This is clearly discriminatory activity but for the first time the cases were focused on the companies and not the Facebook platform itself. The fact that Facebook has tools that permit a user to filter out certain persons from seeing their ads based on personal characteristics (race, ethnicity, age, etc.) had already been exposed in a series of articles in ProPublica and the New York Times. That led to changes by Facebook prohibiting discrimination in future online advertising which are slated to go into effect at the end of the year. But these cases instead held the companies accountable. It had not been clear under the law whether the anti – discrimination and civil rights statutes would be applicable to behavior and activities that take place on social media platforms. These cases from the EEOC now provide the first legal basis for  civil rights and anti – discrimination laws to be applied to a person or company’s online or digital activities. It is a welcome first step forward. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org.

Photo by unsplash-logoMarten Bjork

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