News & Commentary

March 20, 2019

Facebook has reached a settlement in a group of lawsuits alleging that its policy of allowing targeted advertisements for employment, housing, and credit applications discriminates on the basis of age, gender, and other protected categories.  The lawsuits were brought by the National Fair Housing Alliance, the Communication Workers of America, and the American Civil Liberties Union, among other legal and non-profit organizations, after a ProPublica investigation revealed that it was possible to buy housing-related advertisements that targeted individuals by “ethnic affinity.”  While Facebook quickly ditched the “ethnic affinity” category, it continued to allow targeting based on other protected or sensitive categories.  Under the terms of the settlement, Facebook will no longer allow those who run advertisements for housing, employment, or credit to target by gender, age, or zip code and will have a much smaller set of targeting categories in general.  Facebook has also committed to building a tool that will allow individuals to search for all available housing ads across the United States and will pay just under $5 million to the plaintiffs.   In a blog post, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg wrote that “[t]here is a long history of discrimination in the areas of housing, employment and credit, and this harmful behavior should not happen through Facebook ads.”

Goldman Sachs has implemented a version of the Rooney Rule, reports The Wall Street Journal.  The Rooney Rule is a National Football League policy that requires teams to interview at least one ethnic minority candidate for head coaching positions.  Goldman Sachs’s new rule mandates that managers interview at least two “diverse candidates” for any open job, regardless of seniority.  The rule is part of a broader initiative at the firm to hire more black and Hispanic employees.  The firm is also seeking to increase the number of women at the firm and wants 50% of its incoming investment banking analysts to be women by 2021.  Currently, fewer than 20% of partners at Goldman Sachs are women.

The Office of the West Virginia Attorney General is suing the Catholic Church for knowingly employing priests and lay persons who had sexually abused children.  The lawsuit alleges that the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston violated consumer protection laws by failing to notify the parents of children at schools, parishes, and camps about allegations of sexual abuse against its employees or to conduct background checks before hiring them.  The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston denies the allegations and claims that it has mandatory screening processes, background checks, and training for all employees who work with children.  In a statement, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey accused the Church of deceiving consumers “by claiming that the schools were safe while employing credibly accused pedophiles.”  The suit is the first of its kind against a Catholic diocese.

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