Palantir Dejectedly Settles Asian Discrimination Lawsuit
The Department of Labor issued a hiring discrimination lawsuit against Palantir Technologies last fall and the company has recently settled without admission of fault, agreeing to pay nearly $1.7 million in back pay and other compensation to Asian job applicants and offer engineering jobs to eight people whose applications were rejected due to their cultural background. Palantir, contracted by the federal government to provide software and analysis to the FBI, the Army and the U.S. Special Operations Command, had unsuccessfully claimed that the government had misinterpreted the data used in hiring, and the lawsuit was filed by the Office of Administrative Law Judges when the Labor Department had been unable to resolve the issue directly with Palantir.
“Despite repeated efforts to highlight the results of our hiring practices, the Department of Labor relies on a narrow and flawed statistical analysis relating to three job descriptions from 2010 to 2011”, Palantir responded, refusing to admit fault, in a statement. The company is valued by private investors at about $20 billion, making it one of technology’s biggest players in the Silicon Valley region of California. Its software compiles data from disparate sources and then scours that data for patterns and connections. What Palantir does is unique, and the issuing of the Labor Department’s lawsuit put its reputation and contracts with the government on the line. However, “Federal contractors have an obligation to ensure that their hiring practices and policies are free of all forms of discrimination,” Patricia Shiu, director of the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), said. “Our nation’s taxpayers deserve to know that companies employed with public funds are providing equal opportunity for job seekers.”
In one example cited in the lawsuit, Palantir reviewed more than 130 qualified applicants for an engineering intern position, 73% of whom were Asian. The company hired 17 non-Asian applicants and four Asians. The lawsuit alleged that the possibility of this happening simply by chance is one in one billion.
However, Palantir fought the lawsuit vehemently, never admitting fault, which had also accused it of having an internal referral system designed to exclude Asians, initially stating, “We intend to vigorously defend against these allegations.” Upon settling, the company claimed, “We settled this matter, without any admission of liability, in order to focus on our work. We continue to stand by our employment record and are glad to have resolved this case.” Asians make up a large majority of the workforce in Silicon Valley, so the case had received a lot of attention which the business owners said took away from their ability to effectively manage their operations.
A compliance review undertaken by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) beginning at the very start of 2010 found that Palantir consistently used racial discrimination practices against Asian applicants that sought software engineering jobs. These applicants were often removed during their initial resume screenings and subsequently, if not caught in this phase, during the telephone interview phases. They were eliminated despite being well qualified, according to the Labor Department. “We appreciate Palantir working with us to resolve these issues,” said Thomas Dowd, OFCCP Acting Director.