US govt sues Facebook for favouring H-1B visa workers over US workers

The positions at issue offered an average salary of around USD 156,000. The department is seeking unspecified civil penalties and back pay on behalf of US workers denied employment.

Agencies
Trump administration is accusing Facebook in a lawsuit of discriminating against US workers in favour of foreigners with special visas to fill more than 2,600 high-paying jobs
ET Spotlight
Pune: The US Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against Facebook alleging it is discriminating against US workers by hiring people on H-1B and other temporary work permits. Facebook was among the top five recipients of all new H-1B visas issued in FY2019 according to data from US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It was among the top six companies sponsoring green cards for employees during the same period.

The lawsuit alleges that Facebook refused to recruit, consider, or hire qualified and available U.S. workers for over 2,600 positions that Facebook, instead, reserved for temporary visa holders it sponsored for permanent work authorization (green cards) in connection with the permanent labor certification process (PERM). The positions that were the subject of Facebook’s alleged discrimination against U.S. workers offered an average salary of approximately $156,000, said the Justice Department, in a press release.

“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. “This lawsuit follows a nearly two-year investigation into Facebook’s practices and a ‘reasonable cause’ determination by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. 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. 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.”


In recent years, American tech companies have emerged as the biggest users of the H-1B and PERM programs.

The department’s lawsuit alleges that from Jan 2018 to Sep 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 PERM process. Facebook sought to channel jobs to temporary visa holders at the expense of US 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 contrast, Facebook’s usual hiring process relies on recruitment methods designed to encourage applications by advertising positions on its careers website, accepting electronic applications, and not pre-selecting candidates to be hired based on a candidate’s immigration status, according to the lawsuit.

The department concluded that during this period, the company received Facebook received zero or one US 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.
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The release said that these practices also have adverse consequences on temporary visa holders by creating an employment relationship that is not on equal terms. 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. Indians currently face the longest wait times to adjust their status to permanent residency under this program. As of April 2020, there were 800,000 Indians in line for an employer sponsored green card.
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