Union and workers charge T-Mobile and others with age discrimination

The Communication Workers of America (CWA) and three workers filed an age discrimination lawsuit against T-Mobile, Amazon, Cox Communications Media Group, and hundreds of other large US corporations.

The lawsuit, Communications Workers of America et al. v. T-Mobile US, Inc. et al., charges the corporations with coordinating with Facebook to block older workers from receiving job advertisements, an illegal act that violates federal, state, and local laws against age discrimination.

According to the plaintiffs’ complaint, large corporations “eliminate older workers from receiving job ads by specifically targeting their employment ads to younger workers via Facebook’s ad platform.”

“The practice is systematic in the American economy,” continues the complaint, filed in a San Francisco federal court.

“Today, the primary way workers find out about job openings is online, including by getting job ads on Facebook,” said Linda Bradley, a 45 year-old unemployed call center worker and one of the plaintiffs. “It’s not right if people my age are deliberately screened out, and I don’t even get the chance to hear about jobs that I know I have the skills to do.”

The lawsuit includes pictures of Facebook job ads from a number of large corporations and an explanation accompanying each ad.

The explanation tells users that they received the ad because the company is targeting potential applicants who fall into a company-designated age range.

One such explanation for a T-Mobile job ad tells Facebook users that “T-Mobile wants to reach people ages 18 to 38 who live or recently lived in the US.”

Other explanations also contain age ranges, none of which include an age higher than 55 years old.

The lawsuit asks the judge to designate it as a class action lawsuit and asks for an injunction against T-Mobile, Amazon, Cox, and other large employers to stop them from excluding older workers from seeing their job ads.

It also seeks compensation for older workers who have been denied job opportunities.

Two of the plaintiffs, Bradley and Lura Callahan, live in Franklin County, Ohio where Columbus, the state capital, is located.

They are both experienced call center workers who have been laid off from their jobs and are looking for work.

“Living in Ohio, it’s hard to find a good job that pays a living wage,” said Callahan, who is 67 years old. “I’m upset that so many companies are blocking me and other workers from even learning about job opportunities.”

The other plaintiff is Maurice Anscombe, a 57-year-old laid off cable technician with 20 years of experience who lives in Baltimore, County, Maryland. Anscombe has also worked as a law enforcement officer.

One of the attorneys for the plaintiffs is David Lopez, a civil rights attorney with the law firm of Outten & Golden.

“In decades as a civil rights lawyer, I have never seen job ads like these that expressly target young workers and exclude older workers,” said Lopez “The law requires equal opportunity in advertising, recruiting, and hiring.”

“It’s illegal and immoral to exclude older workers from receiving a company’s job ads,” added Peter Romer-Friedman, another attorney with  Outten & Golden representing the plaintiffs. “This harmful practice must stop today. We are hopeful that this class action will end systemic age discrimination in online job recruiting.”

The complaint also faults Facebook for allowing these discriminatory ads to be broadcast.

“Facebook continues to profit from employment discrimination by helping employers and employment agencies to unlawfully exclude older workers from receiving job ads and information,” states the complaint

Facebook’s “search for greater profits. . . has turned its powerful ad platform into a conduit for age discrimination,” continues the complaint.

Facebook has also faced charges that its ad platform allows advertisers to exclude African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans from “receiving ads for various economic opportunities, including housing and employment ads,” states CWA in a media release.

A 2016 report by Pro Publica found that Facebook “gives advertisers the ability to exclude specific groups it calls ‘Ethnic Affinities.’ Ads that exclude people based on race, gender and other sensitive factors are prohibited by federal law in housing and employment.”

The Pro Publica piece showed a Facebook ad for housing that excluded African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans from receiving the ad.

Facebook is not named as a defendant in CWA, et al. vs. T-Mobile et al., but the suit laments the fact that Facebook “has not lived up to its great potential to help workers.”

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