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Justice Department alleges Facebook discriminated against American workers in new lawsuit

wachiwit/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — The Justice Department announced Thursday that it has filed a lawsuit against Facebook, alleging the social media giant discriminated against U.S. workers in favor of temporary visa holders.

The lawsuit argues that Facebook refused to recruit or hire qualified U.S. workers for more than 2,600 roles in the company and instead opted for temporary visa holders it sponsored for green cards.

The average salaries for the positions Facebook allegedly passed up American workers for was approximately $156,000, according to the DOJ.

“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 S. Dreiband of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement.

Dreiband added that the lawsuit follows a nearly two-year investigation into Facebook’s hiring and recruiting practices.

“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,” Dreiband said. “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.”

Facebook said it has been cooperating with the Justice Department, but could not comment further.

“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 told ABC News in an emailed statement.

The lawsuit argues that between Jan. 1, 2018, and at least Sept. 18, 2019, Facebook routinely preferred temporary visa holders for jobs in connection with the PERM process, a Department of Labor process that allows employers to offer permanent positions to temporary visa holders by converting them into permanent residents. The PERM process, however, requires an employer to demonstrate that there are no qualified and available U.S. workers, according to the DOJ.

Rather than conducting a search for available American workers for permanent positions, the DOJ alleges Facebook reserved the positions for temporary visa holders because of their immigration status.

The complaint argues Facebook did not advertise these jobs on its usual recruiting website, required applicants to apply by physical mail only, and refused to consider U.S. workers who applied for those positions. The agency argues the hiring for these positions was in contrast with Facebook’s usual hiring process.

The lawsuit seeks civil penalties, back pay on behalf of U.S. workers denied employment at Facebook and other relief to prevent the same thing form happening in the future.

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