The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Facebook, alleging the social giant illegally discriminated against U.S. workers by reserving more than 2,600 positions for temporary visa holders from other countries.
The suit comes as President Trump has less than two months remaining in the White House before Democratic president-elect Joe Biden takes office Jan. 20.
A Facebook rep said the company disputes the allegations in the complaint but added that the social giant “has been cooperating with the DOJ in its review of this issue.” The spokesperson declined to comment further, citing pending litigation.
The DOJ lawsuit, filed Thursday, alleges that Facebook refused to “recruit, consider or hire qualified and available U.S. workers” for 2,600-plus positions, which the company instead reserved for temporary visa holders it sponsored for permanent work authorization (“green cards”). Per the government’s complaint, the jobs that were the subject of Facebook’s alleged discrimination against U.S. workers had an average salary of $156,000.
“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,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division said in announcing the lawsuit.
According to the DOJ, the lawsuit comes after a nearly two-year investigation into Facebook’s practices on the issue.
The Justice Department’s legal action also comes amid a broader political backlash against Big Tech. Separately, Facebook and other large technology corporations are the subject of DOJ antitrust probes, as well as investigations by the FTC and various state attorneys general.
Trump, meanwhile, has grown increasingly agitated with social-media companies like Twitter and Facebook, which have been fact-checking his groundless and repeatedly debunked claims that the 2020 election was somehow “rigged” or “stolen” from him. Trump this week threatened to veto a defense spending bill unless Congress revokes Section 230, a provision of the Communications Decency Act that protects internet platforms from legal liability for user-generated content and gives them broad freedom to moderate content as they see fit.
According to the DOJ lawsuit against Facebook, the company “routinely” showed a bias for hiring temporary visa holders (including H-1B visa holders) for jobs because of their immigration status, starting no later than Jan. 1, 2018 and lasting until at least Sept. 18, 2019. “Such temporary visa holders often have limited job mobility and thus are likely to remain with their company until they can adjust status, which for some can be decades,” the department said in announcing the suit.
The Trump administration’s lawsuit seeks unspecified civil penalties; back pay on behalf of U.S. workers denied employment at Facebook due to the alleged discrimination; and “other relief to ensure Facebook stops the alleged violations in the future.” The DOJ alleges Facebook’s hiring practices violated a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).