Facebook Settles With U.S. Government Over Improperly Reserving Jobs for Immigrants

Facebook Inc. FB 1.39% has agreed to pay a financial penalty as part of settlements with the U.S. government that had accused the social-media company of illegally reserving lucrative jobs for immigrant workers it was sponsoring for permanent residence instead of searching for and considering available U.S. workers.

Facebook will pay $4.75 million to the U.S. government and as much as $9.5 million to eligible victims of the alleged discrimination, the Justice Department said, in what it called the largest fine and financial award its civil-rights division has ever made.

Also, as part of the settlement, the Labor Department will look into Facebook’s current program to help obtain applications for foreign workers and any future filed ones for the next three years.

“Facebook is not above the law and must comply with our nation’s federal civil-rights laws including those that prohibit discriminatory recruitment and hiring practices,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s civil-rights division.

Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Companies sponsoring workers for employment-based green cards are required to show as part of the application process that they couldn’t find any qualified American workers to fill the job.

Justice Department officials previously said their investigation kicked off when Facebook filed an application with the Labor Department to hire a foreign worker as an art director, a role that requires a bachelor’s degree and two years of experience. The officials said Facebook should have been able to find an American to fill that type of job. Other positions included a number of software jobs, as well as nontechnical positions.

The tech industry broadly relies on H-1B visas to plug gaps in its technical workforce, and says such employees are essential to building the software that powers products such as the Facebook news feed. Tech executives have said there aren’t enough American students graduating with science and engineering degrees to meet their demand, a problem they say is only worsening as products grow more complex and reliant on advanced technology such as artificial intelligence.

Fidji Simo, CEO of Instacart and former Facebook app chief, spoke at WSJ Tech Live about internal decision-making at the tech giant.

U.S. immigration laws set strict requirements for companies looking to apply for green cards on behalf of their employees. They must advertise the job with a state workforce agency as well as in the Sunday edition of a newspaper, among several other requirements. Companies aren’t specifically required to post a job opening on their websites. If a qualified American worker comes forward, the company is required to interview that person, and the green-card application process can’t move forward.

The lawsuit alleged that, though Facebook followed all the advertising and recruiting requirements for these jobs, it didn’t publicize the openings as extensively as it normally would. Facebook didn’t advertise the positions on its website, and required candidates to mail in their applications rather than accepting them online, the suit said. As a result, the company received no more than one application from a U.S. worker in nearly all the jobs at issue, rather than the hundreds who normally apply for open Facebook postings, the complaint said. When U.S. workers did apply, the suit said, Facebook hired them into different jobs, reserving the open position for the H-1B worker.

Facebook, under the settlement, also will be required to train its employees on anti-discrimination requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act, conduct more expansive advertising and recruitment for its job opportunities for all permanent labor certification programs and accept electronic resumes and applications for U.S. workers who apply, the Justice Department said.

Write to Meghan Bobrowsky at Meghan.Bobrowsky@wsj.com

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Appeared in the October 20, 2021, print edition as ‘Facebook Settlements Top $14 Million.’