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Palantir, a Silicon Valley company with ties to Donald Trump, has agreed to pay $1.7m to settle a government lawsuit alleging racial discrimination against Asian applicants.
The $20bn data analytics company, co-founded by Peter Thiel, one of the president’s advisers, has not admitted wrongdoing in the settlement, which comes at a time of increasing debate about discrimination in the tech industry.
The payout, negotiated by the Trump administration’s Department of Labor (DoL), comes amid concern in Silicon Valley over the immigration and labor policies likely to be enacted by the White House.
Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has previously suggested he believes there are too many Asian executives in Silicon Valley.
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In the final year of Barack Obama’s administration, labor officials targeted the California tech sector with high-profile lawsuits alleging discriminatory employment practices at Palantir, Oracle and Google.
While there have been concerns about the fate of these cases under Trump, given the president’s connections to key tech executives and his ongoing efforts to undo labor protections, the Palantir resolution suggests that the DoL is pushing forward with its Obama-era enforcement efforts.
The agreement – which establishes a consent decree requiring Palantir to pay $1,659,434 in back wages and other monetary relief – comes weeks after the DoL accused Google of systematically underpaying women.
An official with the department, which is seeking to force the internet search giant to hand over more internal data, told the Guardian: “The government’s analysis at this point indicates that discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry.”
The labor department first filed the suit against Palantir in September, alleging that the Palo Alto-based company used a discriminatory hiring process in which Asian applicants “were routinely eliminated in the résumé screen and telephone interview phases despite being as qualified as white applicants”.
Like Google and Oracle, Palantir is a federal contractor, which means it is required to follow a higher standard of equal opportunity laws and provide the government data for audits.
The DoL suit, which sought lost wages, said that from a pool of more than 1,160 qualified software engineer applicants, approximately 85% were Asian, but the company hired 14 non-Asian employees and only 11 Asian people. And even though a majority of qualified intern applicants were Asian, Palantir hired four times as many non-Asians as Asians, the suit said.
The settlement agreement also forces Palantir to offer jobs to eight eligible people included in the class covered by the suit.
“We disagree with the allegations made by the Department of Labor. We settled this matter, without any admission of liability, in order to focus on our work,” Palantir said in a statement. “We continue to stand by our employment record and are glad to have resolved this case.”
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Thomas Dowd, acting director of the DoL’s office of federal contract compliance programs, said in a statement that the government had worked with Palantir to “resolve” the issues, adding: “Together, we will ensure that the company complies with equal employment opportunity laws in its recruitment, hiring and other employment practices.”
If the case had not been not resolved, Palantir could have lost its government contracts.
Palantir has been the subject of protests due to Thiel’s relationship with Trump and because of growing concerns about how federal agencies can use the company’s software to assist in the president’s mass deportations agenda.
The Palantir case is unique given that similar companies have faced accusations of bias in favor of Asian applicants. In the recent DoL suit against Oracle, the government said the tech corporation’s hiring and recruiting processes discriminated against non-Asian applicants.
The settlement comes at a time when the Trump administration, as part of his anti-immigrant agenda, has also targeted a visa program that enables skilled foreign workers to secure employment in Silicon Valley. In addition to his suggestions that there are too many Asian CEOs, Bannon, the former Breitbart chairman with ties to white nationalism, has broadly complained about Asian engineers and foreign students taking jobs away from US-born citizens.