Shape of case could change with new Democratic Biden-Harris administration coming in January.
The Trump administration has sued Facebook for allegedly passing over US job candidates for thousands of positions in favor of immigrant workers holding temporary visas, including H-1B visa holders.
A suit filed by the Department of Justice Thursday alleged that Facebook did not consider “qualified and available US workers” for more than 2,600 positions with an average salary of about $156,000.
“Facebook intentionally created a hiring system in which it denied qualified US workers a fair opportunity to learn about and apply for jobs that Facebook instead sought to channel to temporary visa holders Facebook wanted to sponsor for green cards,” the department said in its release.
A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement the company “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 complaint follows a two-year investigation by the DOJ, according to an agency release.
READ: Silicon Valley challenges new H1-B visa restrictions (October 21, 2020)
The Trump administration seeks civil penalties against Facebook as well as back pay for what the DOJ says is owed to US workers who were denied employment at Facebook.
“Our message to workers is clear,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, in a statement. “If companies deny employment opportunities by illegally preferring temporary visa holders, the Department of Justice will hold them accountable.”
“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 US workers.”
The DOJ said Facebook’s alleged behavior also adversely impacts temporary visa holders by creating an unequal employment relationship, because the worker relies on their employment to maintain their immigration status.
The DOJ has been pursuing a broad review of the tech industry since last year and most recently filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google in October.
Facebook is currently under investigation for potential antitrust violations by a group of state attorneys general expected to file suit as soon as this week and by the Federal Trade Commission.
Thursday’s lawsuit deals with a matter separate from antitrust concerns, however.
Tech companies have been at the forefront of many fights over immigration reform, especially advocating for H1-B visas, 70 percent of which go to high skilled Indian professionals. The Trump administration has tried to scale back some of these protections.
The DOJ is seeking civil penalties, back pay on behalf of domestic workers allegedly denied employment and other relief to prevent future discrimination. But with a new Democratic administration coming into office in January, the shape of the case could change.