A Falls Church, Va.-based roofing contractor has been named in a legal complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by the American Civil Liberties Union, three female job hunters and a large union.
Enhanced Roofing & Remodeling is identified in the complaint as one of 10 employers that allegedly used Facebook to post job ads that were exclusively targeted to men. Facebook also is named in the complaint for generally creating a platform where such alleged discrimination can occur.
In addition to the ACLU and three female job hunters, the Communications Workers of America union (with about 700,000 members) is identified as a complainant — along with "all individuals nationwide who have been excluded from receiving employment advertisements via Facebook's advertising platform based on their sex or gender at any time from the earliest date actionable."
The complaint essentially argues that long-standing civil rights laws designed to protect people from discrimination are being broken more often as job searches move online.
“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,” Bobbi Spees, a job-seeker and lead complainant in the case, said in an ACLU blogpost about the complaint. “I shouldn’t be shut out of the chance to hear about a job opportunity just because I am a woman.”
Federal laws prohibit employers (and others, like insurers) from excluding people from advertising on the basis of “protected categories” — gender, race, national origin, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation and religion.
“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, said in the ACLU post. “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.”
The complaint relies largely on exhibits attorneys believe prove discrimination.
Specifically, the exhibits show what happens when users clicked on Facebook’s “Why am I seeing this?” feature that was attached to help wanted ads.
In the case of Enhanced Roofing & Remodeling, the feature shows that “Enhanced Roofing & Remodeling wants to reach men ages 23 to 50 who live or were recently near Silver Spring, Md.”
Attorneys for the ACLU further allege that the job ads from the employers like Enhanced Roofing & Remodeling popped up in the news feeds of men, but not women.
“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.”
An email sent to Enhanced Roofing & Remodeling seeking comment on the ACLU complaint was not returned. A phone message left for the owner was not returned.