EEOC Investigating Facebook Over Systemic Racism

By Douglas Lipsky

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is conducting a systemic probe of racial bias in hiring and promotions by Facebook. While the social media company has not been accused of wrongdoing, a systemic probe indicates that the EEOC suspects Facebook’s policies may be contributing to widespread employment discrimination. 

The Backdrop

The EEOC expanded its investigation of Facebook into a systemic probe following complaints filed by an employee and two job applicants. The original charge was filed with the EEOC last year, with the claimants alleging that the company is biased against black employees and candidates. 

The complaint stated that Facebook’s  hiring policies “adversely affect the opportunities of black workers and applicants.” In particular, the complaint alleged Facebook discriminates against black employees by:

  • Requiring mandatory arbitration for employment discrimination complaints
  • Basing hiring decisions on a “culture fit”
  • Dispensing with evaluations and referrals for white and Asian employees

Reuters reported that the EEOC brought in systemic investigators before August 2020, at which time both sides provided detailed briefs. It is worth noting that the EEOC itself has not alleged Facebook engaged in racial bias. Moreover, the investigation, which could take months to complete, may not uncover any employment law violations.

The Challenges of Diversity in the Tech Sector

According to Facebook’s 2020 diversity report, 3.9 percent of the social media giant’s workforce is black. By comparison, the most recent US census completed in 2019 found that approximately 13.4% of the population identifies as black or African American.

Facebook is not the only tech company under scrutiny for racial bias in its employment policies, however. Recently, Google reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor over systemic compensation and hiring policies that adversely affected female and Asian workers. The company agreed to pay $3.8 million to 5,541 engineers and applicants. Also, several employees have filed a lawsuit against Amazon over alleged racial and gender discrimination. 

Why This Matters

Despite federal, state, and local laws that protect workers against discrimination, racial, gender, and age discrimination are prevalent in the technology sector. While employment discrimination is rarely overt, biases in hiring and promotion policies at tech companies may have an adverse impact on black employees and candidates, as well as women and older workers. 

At this juncture, the outcome of the systemic probe into racial bias at Facebook remains to be seen. In the meantime, if you believe you have been subjected to discrimination in the workplace because of your race or another protected characteristic, talk to an experienced employment lawyer.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.