Department of Labor sues Palantir over hiring discrimination

Steven Loeb · September 27, 2016 · Short URL:

The company is accused of discriminating against Asian applicants for engineer positions

People talk an awful a lot about diversity in tech, and while I know some are probably annoyed by it, and don't see the big deal, there's a good reason that it comes up so often. It's still a really big problem.

Case in point is big data company Palantir, which was actually sued by the United States Department of Labor for discriminating against Asian job applicants, it was announced on Monday. The suit was filed with the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

The lawsuit's main goal is to end Palatir's "alleged discriminatory hiring policies and practices," and to compensate those discriminated against for "lost wages, interest, retroactive seniority and all other lost benefits of employment." It wasn't specified how much would be sought in damages.

The company is being accused of violating Executive Order 11246, which guarantees equal employment opportunities.

In one case, cited in the lawsuit, Palantir had 730 applicants for the job of QA Engineer, 77 percent of whom were Asian, but only one of whom was hired, compared to six non-Asians. The lawsuit says the likelihood of that happening are one in 741. 

In another case, out of a group of 1,160 applicants for a softwar engineer job, 85 percent of whom were Asian, only 11 were hired, compared to 14 non-Asians. The lawsuit says the likelihood of that happening are one in 3.4 million.

In a third case, 73 percent of 130 applicants for a QA Engineer Intern position were Asian, but only four of them were hired, compared to 17 non-Asians. The chances of that happening, according to the suit: one in a billion. 

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs reviewed the complaints, starting in the beginning of 2010, and found that Palantir was "maintaining a hiring process in which Asian applicants were routinely eliminated in the resume screen and telephone interview phases despite being as qualified as white applicants," and also "hiring a majority of applicants from a discriminatory employee referral system."

Federal contractors have an obligation to ensure that their hiring practices and policies are free of all forms of discrimination,” Patricia Shiu, Director of the OFCCP. said in a statement. “Our nation’s taxpayers deserve to know that companies employed with public funds are providing equal opportunity for job seekers.”

Founded in 2004, Palantir provides software and data analysis services under federal contract to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Special Operations Command and the U.S. Department of the Army.

Palantir has been called "the most secretive company" in Silicon Valley. Backed by In-Q-Tel, a VC firm for intelligence firms, including the CIA, and Peter Thiel's Founder's Fund, it offers two products, whose names come from the hometowns of two superheroes: Palantir Gotham and Palantir Metropolis. 

Palantir Gotham, which integrates, manages, secures and analyzes enterprise data is used by counter-terrorism analysts, while Palantir Metropolis, which can analyze any kind of quantitative data, is typically used by hedge funds, banks, and financial services firms.

The company has raised nearly $2 billion in funding, most recently a $879.83 million round in December of last year. 

Palantir has a section on its website devoted to diversity.

"To succeed, we need the very best ideas of all kinds. To access the broadest and fullest set of ideas, our community must attract and encourage people of diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and life experiences," the company says. "We work every day to build a truly diverse workforce, and to foster an environment that is respectful and receptive to new ideas. We celebrate difference and diversity — of background, approach, and identity."

VatorNews reached out to Palantir for a statement or comment, but the company could not be reached at this time. We will update this story if we learn more. 

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