If the EEOC uncovers evidence of widespread, company-encouraged hiring discrimination, then Facebook could be sued for millions of dollars.
The United States government has initiated a “systemic” investigation against Facebook following a lawsuit which alleges widespread discrimination in the company’s hiring policy.
According to Reuters, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s designation of the probe as “systemic” means the agency suspects Facebook’s own company policies could be contributing to discrimination.
The EEOC’s investigation was prompted by a set of lawsuits which suggest Facebook actively avoids hiring Black people.
Oscar Veneszee, Jr.—a Black Facebook recruiter—filed the initial complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in July. In his, Veneszee asserted that Facebook had repeatedly refused to hire African-American employees he’d recommended for hire.
While Veneszee’s complaint only named a scarce handful of rejected applicants, The Verge observes that Facebook has—for years—garnered criticism for its less-than-diverse corporate workforce, wherein an overwhelming majority of its professional, full-time employees are White or Asian.
Mark Luckie, Facebook’s former partnerships manager, even went so far as to publish an internal memo claiming that the social media behemoth mistreats and neglects Black workers.
“In some buildings, there are more ‘Black Lives Matter’ posters than there are actual black people,” Luckie wrote in the memo, which was sent out the same day he left the company. “Facebook can’t claim that it is connecting communities if those communities aren’t represented proportionately in its staffing.”
While the EEOC does not ordinarily respond to such complaints with intensive investigations, they do frequently peruse complaints and authorize some for litigation. A light investigation, attempted mediation, and occasional recommendations to court are often the extent of the agency’s involvement in discrimination cases.
However, the EEOC’s designation of a discrimination investigation as “systemic” has further-reaching consequences. A “systemic” designation means that investigators can request expert assistance, retrieve and analyze corporate data, and even facilitate the formation of a class action.
David Lopez, a former EEOC general counsel who now teaches as Rutgers, told Reuters that systemic investigations are significant because they represent a far greater investment of money and time.
While systemic investigations don’t always find fault, misconduct allegations do not infrequently lead to multi-million-dollar settlements.
Reuters notes that, although the lawsuits against Facebook have not been kept confidential, the “systemic” designation was not publicly known until now.
Facebook has also been accused by the U.S. government of preferring immigrant H-1B workers over American citizens.
Facebook nonetheless maintains that it is committed to fostering a diverse and welcoming environment for all of its employees, regardless of their ethnicity or nation of origin.
“We believe it is essential to provide all employees with a respectful and safe working environment,” Facebook told The Verge in a written statement. “We take any allegations of discrimination seriously and investigate every case.”