WASHINGTON — Facebook agreed on Tuesday to pay up to $14.25 million to settle claims brought by the federal government in the waning days of the Trump administration that the company had discriminated against American workers.
The Justice Department sued the company in December, arguing that Facebook had declined to “recruit, consider or hire” qualified Americans for thousands of positions. Instead, prosecutors said, the company gave those jobs to foreign workers who held work visas.
The agreement with the Justice Department included payments of $4.75 million to the government and as much as $9.5 million to “eligible victims of Facebook’s alleged discrimination,” according to a news release. The company also separately settled concerns raised by the Labor Department this year over whether it had violated labor regulations.
The claims were part of an effort by the Trump administration to push the country’s biggest tech companies to hire more American workers. The administration tightened the requirements to receive a so-called H1-B visa, which are popular with technology companies hiring foreigners, and increased the salaries companies needed to pay workers as part of the program.
The government investigated Facebook for two years, looking into whether the company intentionally favored H1-B visa and other temporary immigrant workers over U.S. workers. Prosecutors ultimately claimed that the company had failed to make more than 2,600 jobs — with an average salary of $156,000 — as readily available to Americans as to foreign workers.
“Facebook is not above the law, and must comply with our nation’s federal civil rights laws, which prohibit discriminatory recruitment and hiring practices,” said Kristen Clarke, an assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s civil rights division.
A Facebook spokesman, Andy Stone, said that the company believed it had met the government standards but that the settlements allowed the company to move forward.
“These resolutions will enable us to continue our focus on hiring the best builders from both the U.S. and around the world, and supporting our internal community of highly skilled visa holders who are seeking permanent residence,” he said in a statement.
The monetary value of the settlement is negligible for Facebook. It paid a fine of roughly $5 billion in 2019 to resolve a Federal Trade Commission case that it had abused consumer data. In the second quarter of 2021, it generated $29 billion in revenue.
But the agreements the company reached Tuesday with the federal government show how the social media giant is facing battles with Washington regulators on multiple fronts.
The F.T.C. last year filed a lawsuit arguing the company broke antitrust laws when it acquired WhatsApp and Instagram, two services the government believes could have become formidable competitors to Facebook if they had not been purchased. Lawmakers have called in recent weeks for more rules to protect children who use Facebook products, after a former employee of the company claimed it knew that its product harmed teenagers.
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