WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is accusing Facebook in a lawsuit of discriminating against U.S. workers in favor of foreigners with special visas to fill more than 2,600 high-paying jobs.
The Justice Department announced the suit Dec. 3, alleging that the social media giant refused to recruit, consider or hire qualified and available U.S. workers for the positions that Facebook reserved for temporary visa holders. Facebook sponsored the visa holders for “green cards” authorizing them to work permanently.
The so-called H-1B visas – used by many Indian firms – are a staple of Silicon Valley, widely used by software programmers and other employees of major U.S. technology companies.
The lawsuit followed a two-year investigation by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
“Facebook intentionally created a hiring system in which it denied qualified U.S. workers a fair opportunity to learn about and apply for jobs” that it instead sought to channel to temporary visa holders, the department said in a news release.
The positions at issue offered an average salary of around $156,000. The department is seeking unspecified civil penalties and back pay on behalf of U.S. workers deemed to have been denied employment.
“Facebook has been cooperating with the DOJ in its review of this issue and while we dispute the allegations in the complaint, we cannot comment further on pending litigation,” the company, which is based in Menlo Park, California, said in a statement.
President Donald Trump has long advocated restrictions on both legal and illegal immigration, and has raised concerns for years about foreigners competing with American citizens for jobs.
In June, his administration extended a ban on green cards issued outside the U.S. until the end of the year and added many temporary work visas to the freeze, including those used heavily by tech companies and multinational corporations for their employees. Officials cast the move as a way to free up jobs in an economy reeling from the coronavirus.
Trump also has been persistently critical of Big Tech companies, accusing them of bias against conservative viewpoints on their social media platforms and threatening to remove their legal protection for content posted by users.
“The timing does seem odd, as little time remains in Trump’s administration and he has been very critical of Facebook in many other areas,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia, noting that the Justice Department had investigated Facebook’s employment practices for two years.
ANI adds: According to the lawsuit, Facebook intentionally created a hiring system in which it denied qualified U.S. workers a fair opportunity to learn about and apply for jobs, instead sought to channel to temporary visa holders the company wanted to sponsor for green cards.
"The Department of Justice's lawsuit alleges that Facebook engaged in intentional and widespread violations of the law, by setting aside 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.
The department's lawsuit alleges that beginning no later than Jan. 1, 2018, and lasting until at least Sept. 18, 2019, Facebook employed tactics that discriminated against U.S. workers and routinely preferred temporary visa holders (including H-1B visa holders) for jobs in connection with the permanent labor certification process.
As per the complaint, rather than conducting a genuine search for qualified and available U.S. workers for permanent positions sought by these temporary visa holders, Facebook reserved the positions for temporary visa holders because of their immigration status.
The complaint also alleges that Facebook sought to channel jobs to temporary visa holders at the expense of U.S. workers by failing to advertise those vacancies on its careers website, requiring applicants to apply by physical mail only, and refusing to consider any U.S. workers who applied for those positions.
"In its investigation, the department determined that Facebook's ineffective recruitment methods dissuaded U.S. workers from applying to its PERM positions. The department concluded that, during the relevant period, Facebook received zero or one U.S. worker applicants for 99.7 percent 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 release said.