Amazon, T-Mobile, and Cox Communications are asking a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit accusing them of excluding older workers from receiving job ads served on Facebook.
The companies say the lawsuit should be dismissed for numerous reasons, including that the ads themselves didn't mention age. "Plaintiffs do not allege that Amazon printed, published, or caused to be published any employment advertisement containing terms or phrases that indicate a preference or limitation based on age," Amazon wrote Monday in a motion submitted to U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman in the Northern District of California. "The only alleged Amazon ads that plaintiffs include in their amended complaint are facially neutral with respect to age, and do not use any impliedly discriminatory terms whatsoever indicating that Amazon would only hire or prefer to hire candidates of a certain age demographic."
T-Mobile and Cox said in court papers that they joined in Amazon's arguments. The companies' papers come in response to a lawsuit filed last December by the Communications Workers of America union and three job seekers over the age of 40. They allege that Amazon, Cox and the other advertisers are violating anti-discrimination laws in the District of Columbia and a host of states.
The class-action complaint alleges that more than 100 employers and employment agencies exclude older workers from job ads on Facebook. The complaint specifically references ads placed by 13 companies, including Facebook itself, which allegedly targeted job ads to people younger than 61. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, was brought the same day ProPublica reported that Facebook allows advertisers to target job ads based on age.
Amazon and the other companies argue that none of the people who are suing have shown that they experienced age-related discrimination. "Plaintiffs do not allege that defendants told anyone over the age of 40 that they should not apply for any position," the companies argue. "They do not allege that defendants prevented individuals over the age of 40 from applying for or obtaining employment. They do not allege that these age filters applied to all of Amazon’s employment advertisements on Facebook."
The companies also argue that the federal law prohibiting employers from posting ads with age restrictions doesn't prohibit demographic targeting. "Under plaintiffs’ legal theory, employers could be prohibited from placing job advertisements in Seventeen Magazine -- a publication reaching younger readers -- or Ebony Magazine -- a publication reaching African Americans -- because doing so could be construed as expressing a preference for certain applicants," the companies write. "They could also be prohibited from conducting on-campus interviews or seeking applicants for clerkships at law schools, since these practices likewise generally reach younger applicants."
The union and users who filed suit are expected to respond to the companies' arguments by September 28.