The New York Times contacted three of the employers to inquire about the allegations. Two of them, Renewal by Andersen, which sells and installs windows and doors, and Defenders, which sells and installs home security systems, declined to comment. Nebraska Furniture Mart did not respond.
In principle, the companies could have simultaneously aimed similar ads at women, but they do not appear to have done so, according to the lawyers involved. Some conceded that they had directed the ads only at men, and some promised to stop doing so, according to Peter Romer-Friedman, counsel at Outten & Golden, one of the lawyers in the case.
Some employers, responding to similar allegations in the past, have argued that their Facebook ads are only one component of a broader recruiting campaign that is more inclusive, in which they use different media to reach different audiences — including ads on platforms like LinkedIn or Indeed and on other websites or on television.
LinkedIn and Google also allow advertisers to exclude men or women from receiving ads. Both companies said in statements that ads illegally discriminating against members of a protected class violated their policies and were removed when found. LinkedIn said each ad was put through either a manual or algorithmic review process.
In practice, Facebook, with its more than two billion monthly active users, can be the most important tool for reaching certain types of workers, such as hourly workers, who often do not use other platforms like LinkedIn and sometimes do not even have résumés.
Bobbi Spees, a 35-year-old mother of three from Smethport, Pa., who is one of those bringing the charges, said she was a part-time job coach for special-education students and that she sought a better-paying position.
Ms. Spees spent several years in her 20s working at a container factory where, she said, the pay was roughly two to three times what she currently makes and her health coverage was impeccable. She said she would like to find a similar job and had used Facebook actively for her search but had had difficulty finding leads.