The probe was launched in response to a complaint filed in July by Facebook operations program manager Oscar Veneszee Jr., who is Black, and two applicants, Howard Winns, Jr., and Jazsmin Smith, who Veneszee recruited, but weren’t hired. A third rejected applicant joined the case in December. The complaint accuses Facebook of discriminating against Black employees and candidates by promoting racial stereotypes.
The EEOC has designated the investigation as “systemic,” which according to Reuters, means there’s suspicion that the widespread discrimination within Facebook could be aided by company policies. Identifying this case as such gives the U.S. agency the right to delve deeper into the matter by analyzing company data and determining whether a lawsuit should be brought against an employer on behalf of its employees.
Reuters notes the EEOC’s investigation could last months and may result in nothing substantial enough to warrant further punishment. However, this complaint highlights a problem at Facebook. “We have a Black people problem,” Veneszee told NPR. “We’ve set goals to increase diversity at the company, but we’ve failed to create a culture at the company that finds, grows and keeps Black people at the company.”
In Facebook’s 2020 diversity report, the company continues to fall short of its goal in having underrepresented groups consist of half of its entire workforce by 2024. NPR points out that just under four percent of Facebook’s current U.S. staff is Black.
As one of the few Black employees at Facebook, Veneszee said he has been highly praised by his manager for his work, but has never received an evaluation that would lead to a promotion. Veneszee has been working for Facebook since 2017, and feels like the lack of upward movement within the company has prevented him from earning “tens of thousands of dollars more,” in addition to a higher bonus and stock options.
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone wouldn’t comment on the EEOC investigation, but said “it is essential to provide all employees with a respectful and safe working environment.”