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Q. My company wants to target on-line recruitment ads for certain jobs to specific age groups. Is that legal?
A. In most circumstances, the answer is no. Unless an employee’s age is a bona fide occupational qualification (i.e., hiring an applicant under a certain age is reasonably related to an essential operation of the business), a policy targeting recruits under an age limit likely will be considered age discrimination.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) states that, generally, it is unlawful for employment notices or advertisements to include age preferences, limitations, or specifications. Thus, advertisements that state that the company is seeking applicants who are “age 25 to 35” or “recent college graduates,” for example, violate the ADEA. Employers also may not base hiring decisions on stereotypes about a person because of his or her age. Likewise, an employer may not use an employment test that excludes older applicants unless the test is based on reasonable factors other than age.
But, what if, instead of soliciting a certain age group in the text of the advertisement, the company uses technology, such as micro-targeting, to limit the population receiving the job ad?