Thursday, December 21, 2017

Hey, I never saw any job ads from that company! Oh...

When I was last laid off from a job over 25 years ago, one of the ways in which I looked for jobs was to use something called "classified ads." These were short pieces of text, printed on paper, that you could use to learn about available jobs.

Of course, now the technology is a little bit different. I don't even know if printed newspapers even run help wanted ads any more - the last time I saw a newspaper, the classified section was very short. Today, of course, you access job information via the web. Perhaps you go to a company's own website. Perhaps you go to a website that aggregates jobs from different companies.

Or perhaps the jobs come to you.

Maybe you're on a social media service, and you see an add pop up for a job. And because the social media service probably already knows a lot about you - where you live, what your current job is - the service can tailor the ads that it presents to you so that you only see ads that are relevant to you.

Or ads that the employer THINKS are relevant to you.

And therein lies the problem, according to ProPublica:

A few weeks ago, Verizon placed an ad on Facebook to recruit applicants for a unit focused on financial planning and analysis. The ad showed a smiling, millennial-aged woman seated at a computer and promised that new hires could look forward to a rewarding career in which they would be “more than just a number.”

Some relevant numbers were not immediately evident. The promotion was set to run on the Facebook feeds of users 25 to 36 years old who lived in the nation’s capital, or had recently visited there, and had demonstrated an interest in finance.

Cool. What's the problem?

For a vast majority of the hundreds of millions of people who check Facebook every day, the ad did not exist.

Well, so what? If it's a finance job in Washington DC, you're not going to want to show it to bricklayers in Oklahoma. ProPublica is obviously getting silly.

And then they start showing other examples:

In a search for “part-time package handlers,” United Parcel Service ran an ad aimed at people 18 to 24. State Farm pitched its hiring promotion to those 19 to 35.

Ah, perhaps you see the issue now. Age targeting can, in some cases, be illegal.

Now in certain instances age targeting is perfectly legal. The U.S. Army can legally exclude 70 year olds from job recruiting ads.

But it's much more problematic in other cases. Could a 37 year old - or a 57 year old, or a 24 year old - work at Verizon? Could a 25 year old be a part-time package handler for UPS?

Several experts questioned whether the practice is in keeping with the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which prohibits bias against people 40 or older in hiring or employment. Many jurisdictions make it a crime to “aid” or “abet” age discrimination, a provision that could apply to companies like Facebook that distribute job ads.

“It’s blatantly unlawful,” said Debra Katz, a Washington employment lawyer who represents victims of discrimination.

And some companies have changed their practices to ensure that they comply with anti-discrimination laws.

After being contacted by ProPublica, LinkedIn changed its system to prevent such targeting in employment ads....

After being contacted by ProPublica and the Times, other employers, including Amazon, Northwestern Mutual and the New York City Department of Education, said they had changed or were changing their recruiting strategies.

“We recently audited our recruiting ads on Facebook and discovered some had targeting that was inconsistent with our approach of searching for any candidate over the age of 18,” said Nina Lindsey, a spokeswoman for Amazon, which targeted some ads for workers at its distribution centers between the ages of 18 and 50. “We have corrected those ads.”

Of course, there are dissenting views on the value of a diverse workforce, including people over the age of 40. The following was written by someone at Brazen in 2009.

We now have youngsters who can’t find jobs not only because this recession sucks, but also because old people are choosing not to retire. They are not retiring because this new generation of “old people” think they will never die due to modern advances in medicine. They are ambitious workaholics who are also too selfish and egocentric to step aside and believe that a younger person could do just a good of a job, if not a better one. They are the first generation who have received so much: peace, prosperity and technology.

And now, they don’t want to give it all up after squandering away our environment and screwing up our market. So next time when you can’t find a job, don’t blame the minority for filling some quota (that is extremely rarely the reason why you don’t get hired); just go ahead and blame the people at the top.

Now that eight years have passed...and another ten years will pass quickly - I wonder if the Brazen writer feels the same way.
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