Not only do Facebook’s alleged practices discriminate against U.S. workers, they have adverse consequences on temporary visa holders
The social network would have
favoured workers with H-B1 visas
The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday filed a complaint against social media giant Facebook, alleging that the company "has refused to recruit, consider or hire qualified and available U.S. workers for more than 2,600 positions. According to the lawsuit, Facebook would have reserved the positions for temporary visa holders it wanted to sponsor for permanent residence in the United States. The average salary for these positions is $156,000.
In a 17-page lawsuit filed Thursday, the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division said Facebook had failed to adequately advertise at least 2,600 positions between 2018 and 2019 that were filled by foreign professionals on H-1B and other temporary visas while the company sought to sponsor them for permanent residence permits called green cards. The lawsuit is being filed after an investigation that lasted nearly two years, according to the Department of Justice.
"The Department of Justice lawsuit alleges that Facebook engaged in intentional and widespread violations of the law by reserving positions for temporary visa holders instead of considering interested and qualified U.S. workers," said Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division.
In a brief statement provided to NPR, a Facebook spokesperson said, "Facebook has cooperated with the Department of Justice in its review of this matter and while we dispute the allegations in the complaint, we cannot comment on the ongoing litigation.
The H-1B visa program allows foreign workers to work for a U.S. company for three years. It may be renewed once. After that, an employer may apply for permission to offer the immigrant permanent employment under the Ministry of Labor's PERM certification program. But the employer is supposed to advertise the job first to see if American workers are available for the position. Only if no qualified Americans apply can the job be awarded to the immigrant.
In its lawsuit, the Department of Justice argues that Facebook's hiring practices make a mockery of these requirements. Most jobs on Facebook are advertised on its career website, and job seekers can apply online. In contrast, Facebook has overwhelmingly placed its legally required advertisements for PERM jobs in print publications. Applicants were required to submit their applications by mail.
DOJ reports that of the 1,128 jobs published between July 2018 and April 2019, 81% received no applicants, while 18% received only one. "The department found that during the relevant period, Facebook received zero or one U.S. candidate for 99.7% of its PERM positions, while comparable Facebook positions that were advertised on its career site during a similar period generally attracted 100 or more candidates each," the statement said.
Facebook's system would have been in place for at least 2 years.
The Facebook lawsuit is the latest example of the conflict between the Trump administration and Silicon Valley over attempts to restrict the immigration of foreign workers. Republican and Trump legislators have also opposed the company in other areas, including accusing the platform of stifling Conservative voices.
Both the Departments of Justice and Labor have investigated large technology companies in the past on the basis of allegations similar to those made against Facebook, but they have rarely filed complaints because of loopholes in the law.
Technology companies and industry groups have opposed measures to limit the immigration of foreign workers, saying there are not enough U.S. science and engineering graduates to meet the demand for jobs in fields such as artificial intelligence, Reuters reported.
Prosecutors say Facebook's double standard has been in place since at least the beginning of 2018 and has not yet been corrected.
For example, in September 2018, Facebook sought a permanent position for an art director who had worked for Facebook on an H-1B visa. Facebook claimed to have posted the job offer for a month without any interest from American workers. Yet the DOJ notes that earlier in 2018, Facebook had posted 22 job offers for other art director positions - many with more demanding qualifications - and the company received more than 2,600 applications for those positions.
Overall, the feds claim that between 2018 and 2019, more than 4,000 U.S. workers applied for jobs on Facebook and did not get them, even though they appeared qualified for one of the 2,600 jobs Facebook wanted to offer to H-1B visa holders during the same period.
The government argues that Facebook's hiring practices unlawfully discriminate against U.S. workers. The lawsuit is part of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division's "Protecting U.S. Workers" initiative, which was launched in 2017 to target, investigate and take enforcement action against companies that discriminate against U.S. workers in favor of temporary visa holders.
The Department of Justice is asking the courts to order Facebook to review its hiring practices, pay a fine, and pay back wages to workers who have been illegally denied employment - a potentially large amount given the number of job seekers involved.