US complaint filed against Facebook alleges bias against black workers

3 Jul 2020

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Legal action has been taken against Facebook by a manager and two job applicants, alleging that black employees are discriminated against.

As Facebook attempts to deal with hundreds of companies temporarily suspending advertising campaigns over claims of inaction against racism and hate on its platform, the company is now facing a discrimination complaint.

According to The Washington Post, a black manager and two black job applicants have filed a suit with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that Facebook is biased against black employees. This relates to evaluations, promotions, pay and hiring practices.

Oscar Veneszee, the Facebook operations manager who has filed the suit, said the company chose not to hire two black candidates he had put forward even though they met all the qualifications.

The complaint alleges that Facebook requires new employees to have a “culture fit”, which adversely affects black candidates when its workforce predominantly consists of white and Asian employees. Currently, just 3.8pc of Facebook’s employees identify as black and its senior leadership is 3.1pc black. Meanwhile, 87pc of Facebook’s employees identify as white or Asian.

‘We take any allegations seriously’

Veneszee said that despite raising issues internally at the company, the protests that followed the killing of George Floyd led him to go public. The complainant alleges that Facebook employees of colour are required to deal with discrimination claims in secret meetings that are not made public by the company.

“There may be Black Lives Matter posters on Facebook’s walls, but black workers don’t see that phrase reflecting how they are treated in Facebook’s own workplace,” the complaint, brought forward by law firm Gupta Wessler, says.

In a statement in response to the suit, a Facebook spokesperson said: “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.”

Last November, a group of 12 Facebook employees published an anonymous open letter claiming that there have been continued instances of discrimination against black staff at the company.

Meanwhile, with hundreds of brands including Verizon and Ben & Jerry’s taking part in a Facebook advertising boycott, the social network’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has agreed to meet with the organisers of the #StopHateforProfit campaign.

Among the 10 demands set out by the campaign is for people who experience severe harassment on Facebook to be allowed to speak with a company employee.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic