Facebook accused of systemic racism in hiring, pay packages

Facebook's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.
Facebook's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Facebook was accused of systemic discrimination in hiring, compensation and promotion of black people in a complaint to federal civil rights authorities.

Thursday’s complaint to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by a Washington-based operations program manager adds pressure on the social network, which is facing an advertising boycott over its failure to remove violent, divisive, racist and discriminatory posts. Along with other major tech companies, it has also faced criticism for its lack of diversity.

Oscar Veneszee Jr., a decorated 23-year US Navy veteran hired by the company in 2017 to recruit other workers retired from the armed services, said he filed the complaint after his objections to Facebook managers over treatment of African Americans went nowhere. It was filed as a class action to represent other Black people who’ve faced discrimination inside the company, as well as those who claim they were unfairly denied jobs with the social network.

“The only way to get contributions from black experience is to have more black employees at the company,” Veneszee said in an interview. “I think the desire is there, but I don’t think there’s an understanding of what’s required to transition to a company that’s more open, to being diverse, bold.”

Facebook had no immediate comment on the complaint.

Facebook, along with Google and Microsoft, have renewed pledges to prioritise diversity in the wake of nationwide protests and calls to end systemic racism after the police killing of George Floyd. Veneszee said he was motivated to complain to the EEOC in part by recent protests.

“We are really as a country talking about getting it right this time,” Veneszee said in the interview. “As I look at our response, I don’t think it has connected to the pain deep enough in order to develop solutions that are going to be better for us as a company.”

A recent Bloomberg News analysis of diversity reports published by those companies, along with with Apple and Amazon.com, shows little progress has been made transforming Big Tech from a predominantly white and male universe, with black workers remaining mostly absent from management ranks and underrepresented in technical roles.

Despite success at his job and positive feedback from managers, Veneszee said in the complaint, he was denied promotions, stalled by evaluations that said he merely meets expectations - which he attributes to discrimination.

Veneszee described his frustration as a black employee of a company where, according to Facebook’s own figures, just 1.5% of employees in technical roles in the US were Black in 2019, and 3.1% are Black among senior leadership.

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