Facebook has agreed to pay a record $14.5m (£10.1m) to settle claims it discriminated against US workers in its hiring practices.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) had claimed the tech giant routinely overlooked US workers in favour of foreign ones on temporary visas.
It is the biggest penalty of its kind issued by the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.
Facebook said it “strongly believes” it met the federal government’s standards.
“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 Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the DOJ.
“Companies cannot set aside certain positions for temporary visa holders because of their citizenship or immigration status.”
The US tech sector often uses temporary visas, including the H-1B, to bring highly skilled foreign guest workers to the US. It argues they are vital, because there are not enough American science and engineering graduates to fill the jobs available in areas such as artificial intelligence.
But critics say the laws governing temporary visas are lax, and make it too easy to replace US workers with cheaper foreign labour – something US law prohibits.
In October last year, the Trump administration tightened the requirements for H-1Bs – something some interpreted as being an attempt to deter foreign workers.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) alleged that from January 2018 until September 2019, Facebook had “refused” to recruit, consider or hire US workers for more than 2,600 jobs.
It also claimed Facebook used recruiting methods “designed to deter US workers from applying to certain positions”, such as requiring applications to be submitted by post only.
The DOJ said this violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against workers because of their citizenship or immigration status.
Those who allegedly missed out included US citizens, US nationals, asylees, refugees and lawful permanent residents, it said.
‘Hiring the best’
Under the settlement, Facebook will pay a civil penalty of $4.75m to the US government, and up to $9.5m to eligible victims of the alleged discrimination.
The tech giant will also be required to conduct “more expansive advertising and recruitment for its job opportunities” and accept electronic CVs or applications from all US workers who apply.
It will also be subject to ongoing audits by the US Department of Labor.
“While we strongly believe we met the federal government’s standards in our permanent labour certification practices, we’ve reached agreements to end the ongoing litigation and move forward,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
They added that the company intends to “continue our focus on hiring the best builders from both the US and around the world.”