Facebook Is Biased Against Black Workers, New Complaint Says

sunscreen zuck Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives onstage to speak about the new Facebook News feature at the Paley Centre For Media on October 25, 2019 in New York City. (Photo: Drew Angerer, Getty Images)
Image: Getty Images

Facebook is facing new allegations of racial discrimination by an African American manager and two Black job applicants whose qualifications reportedly exceeded the requirements but were nevertheless rejected, according to the Washington Post.

The Post reports that Oscar Veneszee Jr., an operations program manager, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination, alleging a pattern of bias against Black employees and job applicants. Facebook’s practice of hiring only people seen as a good fit for the company’s “culture” is said to prejudice the process against Black people. (Facebook’s “culture” is derived from a pool of tens of thousands of workers, less than 4% of whom are Black.)

The complaint asserts that Facebook’s alleged anti-Black bias is reflected in the pay and promotion of current staff, as well.

Veneszee, a 23-year Navy veteran, told the Post that when he joined Facebook he was aware that he would have to pay a “Black tax,” referring to an expectation that he would need to work harder than others due to heightened scrutiny of his performance. “I knew that was the armour I had to wear,” he said.

The complaint reads, per the Post:

“Donating millions of dollars to civil rights organisations does not wash away or justify the unfairness, inequality, and hostility that Black workers experience every day at Facebook — when they are turned down for jobs for which they are exceedingly qualified, when they are unfairly evaluated by mostly white peers and managers, when they are denied promotions by overwhelmingly white managers, when they are reprimanded or criticised for sharing their constructive views about diversity, when their lower pay reflects these systemic biases, and when they are assumed to not match the white-dominated ‘culture fit’ that drives so many employment decisions at Facebook,”

“We believe it is essential to provide all employees with a respectful and safe working environment. We take any allegations of discrimination seriously and investigate every case,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

The EEOC accepts complaints that are filed within 45 days of the alleged discrimination. It has 180 days to conduct an investigation. When a determination is reached, the filer can request a hearing before a judge or simply ask EEOC to issue its decision.

Facebook has long faced allegations that its executives’ commitments to diversity are mere lip service. A Black former employee, Mark Luckie, wrote in 2018 that several Black colleagues had reported being accosted by campus security and that managers had dissuaded them from joining internal Black forums or doing “Black stuff.”

“In some buildings, there are more ‘Black Lives Matter’ posters than there are actual black people. Facebook can’t claim that it is connecting communities if those communities aren’t represented proportionally in its staffing,” Luckie wrote.

Facebook is facing a revolt by major advertisers on the platform who said the company is not doing enough to rein in hate speech on the platform, much of it targeting people of colour. The campaign has run online under the hashtag #StopHateForProfit. Large companies including Microsoft, Verizon, Hershey, Clorox, Target, and Dunkin’ Doughnuts had signed on. Walgreens joined the boycott on Thursday.

“Facebook has given [advertisers] no other option because of their failure, time and time again, to address the very real and the very visible problems on their platform,” Rashad Robinson, president of the civil rights group Colour of Change, told NPR this week. (Colour of Change is among several organisations leading the advertising-boycott effort, including the NAACP and Anti-Defamation League.)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has reportedly been dismissive of the campaign, saying the advertisers “will be back on the platform soon enough,” according to a transcript of an internal meeting obtained by The Information. “We’re not gonna change our policies or approach on anything because of a threat to a small per cent of our revenue, or to any per cent of our revenue,” Zuckerberg reportedly said.

According to the transcript, Zuckerberg also said he feels responding to the campaign demanding tighter restrictions on hate speech would be unhealthy for Facebook “because now it looks like you’re capitulating and that sets up bad long-term incentives for others to do that as well.”

[Washington Post]

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