We will not be the first to say this, but we’ll say it anyway. Social Media is not a passing fad. Policies and laws involving social media are constantly evolving and, in many cases, brand new. When looking for job candidates, does using social media advertisements targeted to young applicants raise age discrimination concerns?

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) makes it illegal to discriminate against workers over the age of 40 when advertising, recruiting and hiring. A provision of the ADEA involving job postings generally makes it unlawful to “print or publish” notices or advertisements “indicating any preference, limitation, specification or discrimination, based on age.”

Preferences for younger employees are only appropriate when age is demonstrated as a legitimate qualification that is necessary for the normal operation of the business.

Age discrimination claims involving the ADEA have been rising steadily over the past decade. The number of age discrimination complaints submitted to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission totaled 18,000 in 2017.

During this time, thanks in no small part to the rise of social media, the methods used by employers when posting job advertisements has evolved. Employers are turning to sites like Facebook to recruit new hires. Readers beware, as using such sites to target younger demographics may be in legal conflict with the ADEA.

In 2017, some large U.S. employers found themselves in federal court facing questions about social media hiring practices. A class action lawsuit was filed against the employers alleging they used Facebook-provided tools to direct ads to younger applicants, thereby discriminating against older applicants.

Plaintiffs in the case, who are all recently unemployed workers over the age of 40 who use the social media site, claim they were denied the opportunity to view employment advertisements because of their age. Since they could not view the ads, they could not apply for the jobs.

While the outcome of the litigation is still pending, similar claims most certainly will follow.

What can an employer do to avoid the risks associated with posting jobs on social media sites? Treat online posting no differently than a publication such as a newspaper. Avoid using language that could be considered discriminatory such as “young” or “new grads.”

You should also research the social media site’s policies and procedures. When finishing the criteria for posting, do not limit how the advertisement will be shared among different age demographics. Ensure that your company’s advertisements are accessible and open to applicants of all ages.

And with that said, let us be the first to welcome you to the social media age.