Labor Dept. files lawsuit accusing Silicon Valley data company of hiring bias


The U.S. Department of Labor filed an administrative lawsuit against Palantir Technologies Inc. Sept. 26, accusing the Palo Alto-based data analysis company of discriminating against Asians who wanted to work on the company’s $340 million worth of government contracts.

The complaint was filed with the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges, which functions as a civil court system for the agency.
Palantir provides software and data analysis services under contract to the FBI, U.S. Army and U.S. Special Operations Command, and has obtained $340 million worth of government contracts since 2010, according to the Labor Department.

The complaint alleges Palantir systemically discriminated against Asian applicants in hiring for software engineering positions, in violation of an executive order that bans bias by government contractors.

It asks for an end to the alleged bias and for back pay, seniority and other benefits for those who were allegedly discriminated against. It also seeks a cancellation of current contracts and a prohibition on future contracts unless the remedy is provided.

Labor Department Senior Trial Attorney Rose Darling said the applicants identified themselves as Asian on their applications and included Asian Americans, Asians living in the United States and Asians living overseas.

The department’s federal contract compliance office conducted a study of Palantir’s hiring for three positions since 2010. For the job of quality assurance engineer, 77 percent of 730 qualified applicants were Asian, but only one of the seven hired was Asian.

The likelihood of that happening by chance is one in 741, the complaint said. The complaint said 85 percent of 1,170 qualified applicants for software engineer jobs were Asian, but only 11 out of 25 hired were Asian; the likelihood of that occurring by chance is one in 3.4 million.

For the position of quality assurance engineer intern, the complaint said, 73 percent of 130 qualified applicants were Asian, while only four of 21 hired were Asian. The complaint said the chance of that happening by chance is one in one billion.

A Palantir spokesman was not available for comment. Decisions of administrative law judges can be appealed to the Labor Department’s Administrative Review Board and then to federal district courts.

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