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Technology & Entrepreneurship

Facebook Sued By Justice Dept. For Allegedly Discriminating Against U.S. Workers

The thumbs-up Like logo on a sign at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. The Justice Dept. is suing the company for allegedly discriminating against U.S. workers in favor of temporary visa holders.
The thumbs-up Like logo on a sign at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. The Justice Dept. is suing the company for allegedly discriminating against U.S. workers in favor of temporary visa holders.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against social media monolith Facebook Thursday, alleging the company "refused to recruit, consider, or hire qualified and available U.S. workers for over 2,600 positions."

According to the lawsuit, Facebook allegedly reserved the positions for temporary visa holders it wanted to sponsor for permanent residency in the U.S. The average salary of these positions: $156,000.

The lawsuit came after a nearly two-year investigation, according to the Justice Dept.

"Our message to workers is clear: if companies deny employment opportunities by illegally preferring temporary visa holders, the Department of Justice will hold them accountable," Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division said in a statement. "Our message to all employers—including those in the technology sector—is clear: you cannot illegally prefer to recruit, consider, or hire temporary visa holders over U.S. workers."

A Facebook spokesperson provided NPR with a brief statement: "Facebook has been cooperating with the [Department of Justice] in its review of this issue and while we dispute the allegations in the complaint, we cannot comment further on pending litigation."

The Permanent Labor Certification Process (PERM) requires employers to prove to the Labor Dept. that they were unsuccessful in recruiting a qualified U.S. worker for a position before moving to sponsor a temporary visa holder for the job.

According to the Justice Dept. statement, Facebook allegedly reserved positions for temporary visa holders it wanted to sponsor for permanent residency - a green card. The suit additionally alleges that Facebook attempted to channel these positions away from U.S. workers by failing to advertise the openings on the company's careers website, and requiring applicants to apply exclusively by physical mail.

"The department concluded that, during the relevant period, Facebook received zero or one U.S. worker applicants for 99.7% of its PERM positions, while comparable positions at Facebook that were advertised on its careers website during a similar time period typically attracted 100 or more applicants each," the statement said.

According to the Justice Dept., Facebook allegedly violated the Immigration and Nationality Act by discriminating against U.S. workers. The lawsuit is part of the Civil Rights Division's Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, established by the Trump administration in 2017.

Dustin Jones is an intern with NPR's News Desk.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.