The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) on Thursday, alleging that the company favored foreign workers with temporary immigration status over native-born U.S. applicants. The DOJs civil rights department charged that holders of H1-B visas got special consideration in hiring decisions and that Facebook used a process that intentionally deterred U.S. workers.
The complaint follows a two-year investigation into the company's hiring practices, which found that Facebook "refused to recruit, consider, or hire qualified and available U.S. workers" for a number of high-paying positions, more than 2,600 that had an average salary of $156,000. The suit says that these positions all went to holders of immigration visas.
The DOJ said that Facebook created permanent jobs for some H1-B visa holders, bypassing its normal hiring process. The positions were not advertised on its website and online applications were not accepted, according to the government, thereby requiring candidates to mail applications. This was a departure from the company's typical process and allegedly discouraged other applicants from applying.
"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," said Eric S. Dreiband, the assistant attorney general for the civil rights division. "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."
According to The Wall Street Journal, a Facebook spokesperson said the company "has been cooperating with the DOJ in its review of this issue and while we dispute the allegations in the complaint, we cannot comment further on pending litigation."
A number of recent reports suggest Facebook is also the target of a government antitrust lawsuit that will be brought by more than 40 U.S. states as early as next week. The reports indicate that the Federal Trade Commission plans to file a related complaint. The charges will likely allege that Facebook has maintained its industry-leading position in the social media space by buying up would-be competitors to stifle competition.