A Facebook manager and two job candidates filed a lawsuit against the social media company on July 2, accusing it of racial bias and discrimination against Black employees in its hiring, paying, evaluating, and promoting practices.
The complaint was brought by Oscar Veneszee Jr., a 46-year-old operations program manager at Facebook, described by the Washington Post as a “decorated 23-year veteran of the Navy, whose job was to help recruit veterans to the company.”
The other two plaintiffs, Howard Winns Jr. and Jazsmin Smith, are two workers Mr. Veneszee recruited to Facebook, but were not offered a job at the company despite being “exceedingly qualified” for the positions they applied for, the lawsuit contends.
The complaint acknowledges donations Facebook has made to civil rights organizations and its stated commitment to company-wide diversity and inclusion, but says those things don’t “wash away or justify the unfairness, inequality, and hostility that Black workers experience every day at Facebook — when they are turned down for jobs for which they are exceedingly qualified, when they are unfairly evaluated by mostly white peers and managers, when they are denied promotions by overwhelmingly white managers, when they are reprimanded or criticized for sharing their constructive views about diversity, when their lower pay reflects these systemic biases, and when they are assumed to not match the white-dominated ‘culture fit‘ that drives so many employment decisions at Facebook,” the complaint alleges.
Black workers make up just 3.8% of Facebook’s general workforce, which is 87% White and Asian. The numbers are even lower among its technical staff (1.5%) and senior leadership (3.1%).
Mr. Venezsee, 46, told the Washington Post that he was thrilled to land a job at Facebook three years ago after a long career in the military, even though he knew he would have to work harder than people of other races to prove his worth – an expectation of institutionalized discrimination known as the “black tax” in corporate America.
But when Mark Zuckerberg allowed a post by Donald Trump inciting violence against Black Lives Matter protesters to remain on the website, Mr. Venezsee decided to take action, especially since his earlier complaints of discrimination did little or nothing to change the company’s practices.
Outrage over Facebook’s failure to address divisive and hateful content has swelled in recent weeks. More than 500 companies have pulled their advertising from the site, triggering substantial financial losses.
The Washington Post notes that the Venezsee complaint isn’t the first to accuse Facebook of racial bias and discrimination against Black people. In 2018, Mark Luckie, a Black Facebook executive, resigned after alleging that his employer “has a black people problem.” In an open letter he posted on the social media site after his resignation, Mr. Luckie spoke of the systemic disenfranchisement and marginalization of Black employees at the company.
Last year, several Black Facebook employees wrote an anonymous letter to say that the problems Mr. Luckie described had only gotten worse.
Larry Golston, Lauren Miles and Leon Hampton are lawyers in our firm’s Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section who handle matters of employment law such as claims of workplace discrimination, including discrimination based on age, race and gender. Additionally, they investigate claims related to sexual harassment in the workplace and other circumstances where an employee might be subjected to a hostile workplace. If you think you have been a victim of workplace discrimination, it is important to seek the immediate advice of an employment lawyer. Contact us to discuss a possible claim.