Facebook Agrees to Pay Millions for 'Routinely' Refusing to Recruit U.S. Workers

Facebook agreed to pay millions of dollars to settle allegations that it "routinely refused" to hire U.S. workers while using the permanent labor certification process, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday.

The DOJ and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) were both looking into the social media company's use of what is known as the "PERM" program. The DOJ filed a lawsuit late last year against Facebook for its alleged misuse of the program, and the DOL also began auditing the company's PERM applications earlier this year.

Facebook allegedly kept positions open for workers who had temporary visas instead of hiring U.S. workers, a group the DOJ identified as including "U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, asylees, refugees and lawful permanent residents." The DOJ's allegations spanned the time period from early 2018 through at least mid-September of 2019.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke with the DOJ's Civil Rights Division said in a statement that Facebook "is not above the law" and that it and other companies "cannot set aside certain positions for temporary visa holders because of their citizenship or immigration status."

"This settlement reflects the Civil Rights Division's commitment to holding employers accountable and eradicating discriminatory employment practices," Clarke said.

Facebook settles DOJ suit
The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday announced Facebook has agreed to pay millions to settle allegations that it "routinely refused" to hire U.S. workers. Above, a giant digital sign is photographed at Facebook's corporate headquarters campus in Menlo Park, California, on October 23, 2019. JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images

As part of the settlements, Facebook will pay a $4.75 million civil penalty and may also pay as much as $9.5 million to "eligible victims of Facebook's alleged discrimination," the DOJ said. Individuals who have reason to believe they may have been discriminated against were encouraged to file a claim with the DOJ's Civil Rights Division.

The DOJ noted the amounts mark the "largest fine and monetary award" secured following allegations of violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

In its lawsuit filed last December, the DOJ said Facebook's alleged discrimination against U.S. workers "was intentional, widespread, and in violation of provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act." Separately, the DOL "identified potential regulatory recruitment violations" as a result of its audit of Facebook's pending PERM applications.

In addition to the monetary portions of its settlement with the DOJ, Facebook is expected to instruct its employees so they understand the anti-discrimination elements of the INA. The company is also expected to expand its efforts to consider applicants for positions recruited through the PERM process.

The DOL's settlement with Facebook also requires expanded recruitment efforts and additional audits as the company continues to use the PERM process.

DOL Solicitor Seema Nanda referred to their settlement as "an important step forward."

"No matter an employer's size or reach, the Department of Labor is committed to vigorously enforcing the law,' Nanda said.

When reached for comment, a Facebook spokesperson told Newsweek the company "strongly" believes it followed the rules outlined in the PERM process and said the settlements will enable it to refocus its hiring efforts.

​​"While we strongly believe we met the federal government's standards in our permanent labor certification (PERM) practices, we've reached agreements to end the ongoing litigation and move forward with our PERM program, which is an important part of our overall immigration program," the Facebook spokesperson said. "These resolutions will enable us to continue our focus on hiring the best builders from both the U.S. and around the world, and supporting our internal community of highly skilled visa holders who are seeking permanent residence."