US tech firm sued over Asian recruitment discrimination

Asian tech worker Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Palantir has denied the allegations

Silicon Valley firm Palantir Technologies is being sued by the US government over alleged "systematic" discrimination against Asian applicants and members of staff.

A lawsuit has been filed which alleges that the firm has used discriminatory recruitment procedures since 2010.

The US Department of Labor is seeking compensation for those affected, including lost wages and promotions.

Palantir Technologies said it "firmly denied" the allegations.

"We are disappointed that the Department of Labor chose to proceed with an administrative action and firmly deny the allegations," the company said in a statement shared by the Wall Street Journal (subscription website).

"Despite repeated efforts to highlight the results of our hiring practices, the Department of Labor relies on a narrow and flawed statistical analysis relating to three job descriptions from 2010 to 2011."

On its website it says it "celebrate(s) difference and diversity - of background, approach and identity".

'One in 3.4 million chance'

The government identified three staff roles for which it alleges there was biased recruiting:

  • When recruiting for a quality assurance engineer, the firm hired six non-Asian staff and one Asian from a pool of 730 applicants, of whom roughly 77% were Asian
  • There were 1,160 qualified applicants for a software engineer position, of whom approximately 85% were Asian, but Palantir hired 14 non-Asians and 11 Asians
  • When recruiting for a quality engineer intern, the firm hired 17 non-Asians and four Asians. There were 130 applicants, of whom around 73% were Asian.

It said the likelihood of the software engineer position having been filled that way by chance was "approximately one in 3.4 million".

"From at least January 1, 2010 and going forward to the present, Palantir utilised a four-phase hiring process in which Asian applicants were routinely eliminated during the resume, screen and telephone interview phase despite being as qualified as white applicants with respect to the QA Engineer, Software Engineer and QA Engineer Intern positions," the lawsuit paperwork reads.

"In addition the majority of Palantir's hires into these positions came from an employee referral system that disproportionately excluded Asians."

The firm, which specialises in data mining, is credited with helping the US government find Osama Bin Laden.

Last year, Reuters reported that it was valued at $20bn (£15bn).

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