The Trump administration is accusing Facebook of discriminating against U.S. workers in favor of foreigners with special visas to fill more than 2,600 high-paying jobs.
In a lawsuit announced on Thursday, the Department of Justice alleges the social media company refused to recruit, consider or hire qualified U.S. workers for the positions it had reserved for temporary visa holders. Facebook sponsored visa holders for "green cards" authorizing them to work permanently, according to the agency.
"Facebook intentionally created a hiring system in which it denied qualified U.S. workers a fair opportunity to learn about and apply for jobs" that it instead sought to channel to temporary visa holders, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Facebook disputes the Justice Department's allegations but is cooperating with the agency while it investigates, a Facebook spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch.
In the lawsuit, prosecutors accuse Facebook of hiring foreigners who carried a temporary visa. Once on staff, the worker would then ask Facebook for a permanent position in order to stay in the U.S. Facebook would create the position, then fill it with the foreigner who asked for it, the Justice Department alleged.
"The Department of Justice's lawsuit alleges that Facebook engaged in intentional and widespread violations of the law, by setting aside positions for temporary visa holders instead of considering interested and qualified U.S. workers," Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division said in a statement.
Facebook, which employs more than 52,000, would typically advertise a job opening on its corporate website and garner hundreds of American applicants, the government alleges. But the permanent jobs given to foreigners had no American candidates, the lawsuit claims.
"Facebook does not advertise the positions on its website, does not accept applications online, and requires candidates to mail in their applications," federal prosecutors said in the lawsuit.
The positions at issue offered an average salary of around $156,000. The preference for foreign applicants was intentional, widespread and part of the company hiring practices from 2018 to at least September 2019, Justice Department officials allege.
The agency is seeking unspecified civil penalties and back pay on behalf of U.S. workers who were denied employment.
"Our message to all employers, including those in the technology sector, is clear," Dreiband said. "You cannot illegally prefer to recruit, consider or hire temporary visa holders over U.S. workers."