The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is looking into allegations of racial bias and hiring practices at Facebook, a probe which the agency has designated as “systemic,” Reuters reported.
In July, Facebook employee Oscar Veneszee, Jr., who is Black, filed a complaint with the EEOC along with two people Veneszee recruited but whom Facebook did not hire. The complaint alleges that the social platform discriminates against Black job applicants and employees and promotes racial stereotypes. Veneszee told NPR that Facebook has “a Black people problem,” and that the company has failed to create a culture to attract and retain Black workers.
The EEOC has not brought allegations against Facebook, Reuters notes, and the agency’s investigation may not produce findings of any wrongdoing on the company’s part. Designating the probe as “systemic” suggests the EEOC may suspect Facebook’s hiring policies are contributing to widespread discrimination, and such a designation could pave the way for a possible class action lawsuit, according to Reuters. The EEOC did not immediately reply to a request for comment from The Verge on Saturday.
The complaint is reminiscent of earlier criticisms of Facebook’s diversity. In 2018, Facebook’s then-partnerships manager Mark Luckie published an internal memo sent to his co-workers on his last day at the company, where he said the company mistreated its Black employees.
“In some buildings, there are more ‘Black Lives Matter’ posters than there are actual black people,” Luckie wrote. “Facebook can’t claim that it is connecting communities if those communities aren’t represented proportionately in its staffing.”
Facebook’s 2020 diversity report showed the company was still short of its goal to have 50 percent of its workforce from underrepresented groups by 2024; that figure inched up from 43 percent in 2019 to 45.3 percent in 2020. Last June, Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout over the company’s decision not to take action against posts from former President Trump, including a post that included the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” seen as a threat toward people protesting racial violence across the country last summer.
“We believe it is essential to provide all employees with a respectful and safe working environment,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an email to The Verge on Saturday. “We take any allegations of discrimination seriously and investigate every case.”
Update March 6th 1:52PM ET: Added comment from Facebook spokesperson