The US Department of Justice is suing Facebook, alleging that the social media group illegally prioritised hiring immigrant workers over qualified US citizens.
The suit filed on Thursday claimed the company routinely refused to consider or recruit “available and qualified” US workers in 2018 and 2019 for more than 2,600 Facebook roles, which had an average salary of about $156,000.
Instead, those positions were reserved for H-1B and other temporary visa holders that Facebook was sponsoring for permanent residence, according to the DoJ, which said it had carried out a two-year investigation into the matter.
The 17-page complaint alleges that Facebook discriminated against US workers by failing to advertise vacancies that it intended to go to immigrant workers on its careers website, accepting physical mail applications only. Facebook’s application process is typically online.
“Not surprisingly, Facebook often gets zero applications for these advertised positions. And even when US workers do apply, Facebook will not consider them for the advertised positions,” the complaint said.
The DoJ is seeking monetary damages and other penalties.
A Facebook spokesperson said the company was co-operating with the DoJ, adding: “While we dispute the allegations in the complaint, we cannot comment further on pending litigation.”
The complaint is part of a government initiative that started in 2017, aimed at investigating companies that discriminate against US workers in favour of temporary visa holders, which has led to several settlements with smaller companies.
Under US law, companies sponsoring workers for green cards must show that they could not find any US employees to fill the post.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration attempted to tighten its rules on H-1B visas as part of a broad crackdown on legal immigration, which it has argued is necessary to help US citizens find jobs amid the soaring unemployment caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
In June, Mr Trump issued an executive order halting the issuance of new H-1B visas, and the H4 visas that allow the spouses of those visa holders to live, and sometimes work, in the US. Following a legal challenge from business groups, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled in October that the administration could not enforce the ban on H-1B visas.
Mr Trump also banned green card applications until the end of the year and suspended a range of “guest worker” visas that allow everyone from scientists and engineers to au pairs to work in the US.
Silicon Valley depends heavily on H-1B visas to hire engineers, scientists and coders from other countries, putting company chiefs at odds with the government’s approach.
Sundar Pichai, Google chief executive, and Chuck Robbins, Cisco Systems chief executive, were among those to criticise the Trump administration’s efforts to scale back on immigration earlier this year.