Facebook has publicly committed to fighting racism, but there are concerns that isn’t translating to its recruitment practices. Reuters sources say the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is investigating possible “systemic” racism in Facebook’s hiring and job promotions. Facebook program manager Oscar Veneszee Jr. and four candidates have reportedly accused the social network of discriminating against Black applicants and staff through subjective evaluations and pushing racial stereotypes. Three of the people brought the case in July 2020, with a fourth joining in December.
The EEOC tapped investigators for systemic cases by August 2020, but they’ve only received briefings from both sides of the case over the past four months.
While the full extent of the alleged violations isn’t clear, one of the policies in dispute stems from hiring bonuses. The company hands out up to $5,000 in bonuses if a referred candidate is hired, but those referrals tended to reflect the existing employee demographics and disadvantage Black applicants (who make up 3.9 percent of US employees as of last June).
There are no guarantees the EEOC investigation will lead to formal action. The Commission declined to comment, but Facebook said it took discrimination accusations “seriously” and investigated “every case.”
This isn’t the first time Facebook’s hiring has come under fire. In 2017, a Bloomberg report pointed out that a handful of executives typically made final hiring decisions and tended to use metrics that favored culturally similar candidates, such as people endorsed by existing staff or those who went to certain schools. Facebook maintained that it had diverse hiring teams that brought in candidates from a wide range of backgrounds, but its incentive system was having problems at the time.
If the allegations hold up, they’ll suggest that some of those years-old complaints still persist. An EEOC determination could lead to reforms, even if it’s just through public pressure.