Facebook to pay up to $14.25 million to settle U.S. employment discrimination claims

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Facebook will pay up to $14.25 million to settle civil claims brought by the U.S. government that the social media company discriminated against workers and violated other federal recruitment rules, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

The two related settlements were announced by the U.S. Justice Department and Labor Department. The Justice Department announced last December that it was filing a lawsuit that accused Facebook of giving hiring preferences to temporary workers, including those who hold H-1B visas that let companies temporarily employ foreign workers in certain specialty occupations. Such visas are widely used by tech companies.

Kristen Clarke, assistant U.S. attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, called the agreement with Facebook historic.

“It represents by far the largest civil penalty the Civil Rights Division has ever recovered in the 35-year history of the Immigration and Nationality Act’s anti-discrimination provision,” Clarke said in a call with reporters, referring to a key U.S. immigration law.

The case centered on Facebook’s use of the so-called permanent labor certification, called the PERM program.

The U.S. government said that Facebook refused to recruit or hire U.S. workers for jobs that had been reserved for temporary visa holders under the PERM program. It also accused Facebook of “potential regulatory recruitment violations.”

Facebook will pay a civil penalty under the settlement of $4.75 million, plus up to $9.5 million to eligible victims of what the government called discriminatory hiring practices.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Will Dunham)

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