Business Law / Litigation

Facebook Making Changes to Avoid Discrimination in User Recruitment Practices

When business owners are seeking candidates for available jobs or posting employment opportunities to social media sites, there is a lot to consider from a legal standpoint. One issue in particular that can pose significant problems for an employer is the failure to consider human rights regulations when posting jobs and selecting candidates. Recently, Facebook announced plans to amend its internal regulations to ensure that job postings on the site (as well as on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook) do not violate human rights legislation or engage in discriminatory targeting. The changes will also affect ads around housing and credit opportunities in addition to employment-related posts and are expected to be in force on Facebook Canada by the end of the year.

Facebook to Eliminate Ability to Target Candidates Based on Human Rights Grounds

The changes primarily relate to the ability to target or avoid candidates based on protected grounds. Characteristics protected by federal and provincial human rights legislation include:

  • Age
  • Gender and gender identity
  • Citizenship
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • Disability
  • Family or marital status

The federal and provincial Human Rights Commissions have both raised concerns in the past relating to postings on the social media platform that appear to target and/or exclude candidates based on age, gender or postal code. Further, Facebook recently settled a major audit by several U.S. civil rights organizations with respect to discriminatory practices with postings to the site.

The changes are expected to restrict advertisers’ ability to target ads based on protected grounds, and will also ensure that all employment ads are accessible through Facebook’s Ad Library. This will allow job candidates to search all employment ads on Facebook Canada regardless of a poster’s intended audience, ensuring that the ads will be accessible to all users.

Examples of Other Hiring Practices Deemed Discriminatory in Ontario

While there are many factors that go into choosing a successful candidate for a job, or even choosing who to interview for a role, there are some indicators that can demonstrate when an employer has engaged in discriminatory practices when making such decisions. Employers might be surprised to learn what may be considered evidence of this fact, so they need to exercise caution in all advertisements, communications with applicants, and decision-making discussions. For example, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (HRTO) recently found that one employer had discriminated against an applicant on the basis of age because the interviewer’s notes from the interview contained the word “older”, while other applicants had been referred to as “young”. In addition, the interviewer had noted the younger applicants’ ambition and computer skills, which was considered to be stereotypical against the older applicant.

Another HRTO decision found in an applicant’s favour because of what he was told when he enquired about his application status for a legal writer role with a Canadian publisher. Prior to conducting interviews, the company had reached out to the applicant to ask him about his prior employment and his year of call to the Ontario Bar. The applicant, who was 60 years old at the time, provided this information as requested. In a follow up with the company, the applicant was told that the employer was “moving toward candidates that are more junior in their experience and salary expectation”. The HRTO found that the company’s expressed desire to seek out a junior candidate was based on stereotypical assumptions around the applicant’s age and found in favour of the applicant.

Always Keep Potential Discrimination Issues in Mind When Hiring New Candidates

As demonstrated in the cases above, seemingly neutral notes and comments can have a big impact when looked at through the lens of human rights discrimination. Employers should exercise due caution when hiring candidates or even advertising a role, to ensure that they are not unintentionally engaging in discriminatory practices.

If you are an employer looking to ensure that your hiring practices are in compliance with provincial and federal regulations, or a job candidate who believes you may have been discriminated against, contact GLG LLP in downtown Toronto. The firm’s business and employment litigation lawyers provide efficient and skilled trial advocacy for a range of employment litigation matters. Call the firm at 416-272-7557 or contact them online to schedule a confidential consultation.