Warning to Job Search Engines About Age Discrimination in Hiring

madigan-lisa Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has warned six national career and job search companies that some of their search functions could violate state and federal age discrimination laws.

In a press release Thursday, Madigan announced she has sent letters seeking information about company practices from  Chicago-based CareerBuilder, Indeed, Beyond.com, Ladders, Inc., Monster Worldwide Inc. and Vault.

Madigan expressed concern about practices that appear to prevent older workers from creating accurate resumes and profiles when searching for new careers and submitting information to potential employers.

In particular, she focused upon sites that require job seekers to input dates of previous work experience and education but only allow those born after a certain year to do so. For example, one company provided 1980 as the earliest possible choice for users’ education or previous employment start dates.  Users over the age of 52 were unable to complete accurate profiles to apply for available positions.

Madigan’s Civil Rights Bureau is examining these practices.

It’s no secret that internet job search engines for years have quietly used software to divert applications by older workers into a digital trash can.

The problem of discriminatory practices by job search engines vividly came to light in a 2012 lawsuit filed against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. by Richard M. Villarreal, who at age 49 submitted the first of several  unsuccessful internet job applications to Reynolds. Villarreal filed an age discrimination lawsuit after learning that Reynolds  had contracted with two recruiting firms to develop internet screening tools to screen out applicants having eight to ten years of experience. CareerBuilder.com was a defendant in that case.

The Villarreal case ultimately was gutted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, which ruled that job applicants cannot sue employers under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) for promulgating policies and practices that discriminate in hiring on the basis of age. The appeals court said the ADEA does not cover job applicants, only employees.

Since then, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled in the case of Rabin v. PriceWaterhouseCoopers that the ADEA does permit so-called disparate impact lawsuits on behalf of job applicants.

Madigan cites both the ADEA and the Illinois Human Rights Act.

“Today’s workforce includes many people working in their 70’s and 80’s,” Madigan said in the release. “Barring older people from commonly used job-search sites because of their age is discriminatory and negatively impacts our economy.”