Facebook’s hiring practices and promotions are under scrutiny following reports of widespread racial bias, according to Reuters. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has launched a “systemic” investigation into the social media giant, indicating that it suspects internal policies may be contributing to a top-down culture of discrimination.
In July, Facebook operations program manager Oscar Veneszee Jr., who is Black, filed a complaint with the EEOC along with two applicants he recruited that Facebook later rejected. A third rejected applicant joined the case in December. The complaint, which they told NPR was filed on behalf of “all Black Facebook employees and applicants to Facebook,” alleges that the company fails to provide equal career opportunities for its Black workers, employs subjective evaluations that promote racial stereotypes, and discriminates against Black candidates. In short, Facebook has “a Black people problem,” Veneszee said at the time.
Reuters first reported the EEOC probe’s “systemic” designation on Friday, a notable development that could potentially pave the way for a class-action lawsuit down the line. The agency handles cases of purported workplace discrimination, often settling complaints through mediation or facilitating lawsuits against employers. But, as the outlet notes, the EEOC hasn’t brought specific allegations against Facebook at this time, and its investigation — which could last months — may very well turn up nothing.
Facebook did not immediately return Gizmodo’s request for comment, but we’ll update this blog when we hear back.
It’s far from the first time Facebook has come under fire for its lack of diversity. Just 3.9% of the company’s U.S. workforce is Black, and that figure drops to 3.4% among leadership positions, per Facebook’s most recent diversity report.
In November 2019, a dozen anonymous employees published a Medium post exposing the discrimination and racism they experienced while working at Facebook. An update published a few weeks later detailed the backlash from upper management after the first post went viral as well as the excuses and half-hearted apologies Facebook offered instead of any meaningful commitments to foster a company culture that would attract and retain Black workers. In 2018, a former Facebook manager, Mark Luckie, published a memo on Facebook that he emailed to coworkers on his last day there accusing the company of “failing its Black employees and its Black users.” Perhaps not coincidentally, Facebook briefly removed the post for violating its community standards but later reversed the decision.
Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone declined Reuters’ request for comment on the allegations or the status of EEOC’s investigation, but said “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,” he told the outlet.