The Department of Justice has sued Facebook, alleging it discriminated against U.S. workers by reserving positions for temporary visa holders, the agency announced Thursday.
The DOJ alleged that Facebook did not consider "qualified and available U.S. workers" for more than 2,600 positions with an average salary of about $156,000, according to the release.
"Facebook intentionally created a hiring system in which it denied qualified U.S. workers a fair opportunity to learn about and apply for jobs that Facebook instead sought to channel to temporary visa holders Facebook wanted to sponsor for green cards," the department said in its release.
A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement the company "has been cooperating with the DOJ in its review of this issue and while we dispute the allegations in the complaint, we cannot comment further on pending litigation."
The DOJ alleged Facebook used tactics that discriminated against U.S. workers beginning no later than Jan. 1, 2018, and through at least Sept. 18 of last year. Those tactics included failing to advertise open positions on their careers website and refusing to consider U.S. workers for those roles, the DOJ alleged.
"Our message to workers is clear: if companies deny employment opportunities by illegally preferring temporary visa holders, the Department of Justice will hold them accountable," Eric S. Dreiband, head of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. "Our message to all employers — including those in the technology sector — is clear: you cannot illegally prefer to recruit, consider or hire temporary visa holders over U.S. workers."
The DOJ said Facebook's alleged behavior also adversely impacts temporary visa holders by creating an unequal employment relationship, because the worker relies on their employment to maintain their immigration status.
The DOJ said in a press release that the lawsuit followed a "nearly two-year investigation." The department has been pursuing a broad review of the tech industry since last year and most recently filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google in October. Facebook is currently under investigation for potential antitrust violations by a group of state attorneys general expected to file suit as soon as next week and by the Federal Trade Commission.
Thursday's lawsuit deals with a matter separate from antitrust concerns, however. Tech companies have been at the forefront of many fights over immigration reform, especially advocating for H1-B visas, a high-skilled visa used by many tech workers. The Trump administration has tried to scale back some of these protections.
The DOJ is seeking civil penalties, back pay on behalf of domestic workers allegedly denied employment and other relief to prevent future discrimination. Still, with a new Democratic administration coming into office in January, the shape of the case could change.