US Department of Justice files lawsuit against Facebook for flouting H1-B visa rules


Facebook Inc is yet again under scrutiny, this time from the US Department of Justice (DOJ), who has filed a lawsuit against the social media giant for discriminating against US workers in its hiring process.

The lawsuit alleges that the company reserved over 2,600 jobs for H-1B visa holders, whom it had sponsored for green cards. These positions offered an average salary of about $156,000, according to a press note issued by the DOJ.

“The lawsuit follows a nearly two-year investigation into practices adopted by Facebook and a ‘reasonable cause’ determination by the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, adds the press note.

“Our message to workers is clear: if companies deny employment opportunities by illegally preferring temporary visa holders, the DOJ will hold them accountable. 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 US workers,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division at DOJ.

“Facebook 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,” said a company spokesperson.

Immigration experts view this lawsuit as yet another attempt by the Trump administration to deter hiring of H-1B visa holders and in sponsoring them for green cards. This development comes on the heels of dismal by a US district court of the interim final rules, relating to wage hikes and narrowing eligibility for H-1B visa, that would have made hiring of H-1B visa holders challenging.

Cyrus Mehta, founder of a New York-based immigration law firm told reports, “When a US employer wishes to sponsor a foreign national for a green card, the employer is required to test the domestic labor market for qualified workers before a labor certification is approved.”

“Facebook was not accused of violating the DOL rules. Under the DOL rules, if the employer finds a qualified American worker after testing the labor market, the employer cannot go ahead with the labor certification. However, the employer is not required to hire the US worker and terminate the foreign worker who already holds the job often on an H-1B visa. The DOJ has accused Facebook for discrimination for not hiring US workers. If the government is not happy about the way Facebook conducted recruitment under the DOL rules, then the labor certification system must be reformed and Facebook should not be penalized with whopping penalties,” adds Mehta.

During the period under investigation, Facebook received zero or one US worker applicant for 99.7% of its PERM positions. When jobs were advertised on its careers’ website, during a similar time period, it typically attracted 100 or more American applicants, adds the press note.

In this backdrop, the DOJ has termed Facebook’s discrimination against American workers as intentional, widespread and in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The DOJ in its lawsuit is seeking civil penalties and back-pay on behalf of American workers denied employment in favor of H-1B visa holders.