The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, has joined other federal agencies in investigating several high profile companies that advertise on Facebook. The allegation against these companies is that they used online recruiting ads that were intentionally shown only to men and to people under the age of 40.

For its part, Facebook has agreed to overhaul its practices to ensure that targeted ads soliciting job candidates cannot be used to discriminate. Specifically, Facebook said that it would no longer allow targeted ads based on age, gender or a person’s zip code.

The EEOC more recently accused several major national corporations, including Capital One, Edward Jones and Enterprise, of being complicit in this advertising scheme. Specifically, the EEOC found reasonable cause that each company had violated federal anti-discrimination laws by engaging in discriminatory recruiting and hiring practices. This initial charge of age discrimination and gender discrimination opens the door to settlement negotiations between the EEOC and the companies, but it also lays the groundwork for agency action or even a private lawsuit.

For their part, the companies have denied violating the law. Edward Jones even went so far as to issue a statement expressing strong disagreement with the EEOC’s allegation.

This case is a bit novel in that the allegation involves illegal and discriminatory recruiting via social media. Even 25 years ago, this sort of allegation would be extremely rare given that few people advertised online.

However, the same principles that apply to more traditional recruiting also apply to the utilization of digital platforms to seek suitable job candidates Specifically, a company may not tolerate, either directly or through a third party, recruiting efforts which intentionally exclude or marginalize protected classes. When this occurs, legal action may be justified.