PLEASE NOTE: To protect your safety in response to the threats of COVID-19, we are offering our clients the ability to meet with us via telephone or through video conferencing through a number of digital platforms. Please call our office to discuss your options.

Is Facebook failing its Black employees and users?

Diversity is about more than fairness. It is also about helping your company build relationships with a diverse audience and customer base. Without sufficient diversity inside the company, it’s hard to draw in users of color, and mistakes can easily be made that will alienate them.

Recently, a Black employee of Facebook filed a complaint with the EEOC. It is the first step towards a class-action lawsuit against the company, if the class is approved by a judge. The employee claims that Facebook discriminates against Black employees in hiring and in the opportunities it affords Black employees.

“We have a Black people problem,” the man told NPR. He is a Navy vet whose job it is to recruit other vets and people of color to work at the social media company as part of a diversity initiative. He argues that the company has set diversity goals but failed to follow through with a culture committed to actual diversity.

According to NPR, Facebook’s most recent diversity report showed that less than 4% of its U.S. workforce is Black — and 3% in senior leadership. Most of its employees are white or Asian, as is common among its Silicon Valley peers.

The employee who filed the complaint has been rated as a “natural leader” and a “powerhouse” by his manager, but those evaluations didn’t secure him any promotions. He claims that being held back has cost him tens of thousands of dollars annually, along with higher bonuses and stock options.

It’s not just lack of promotion that bothers him, however. He claims that he has also faced a hostile work environment that has limited his career advancement. The problems at Facebook, he claims, include discrimination against Black applicants and workers “in hiring, evaluations, promotions, and pay.”

Specifically, he points to several common practices that can result in a lack of diversity:

  • Hiring and promoting for “cultural fit”
  • Relying on peer review to evaluate employees
  • Requiring employees to bring any claims of discrimination or harassment in confidential arbitration

The man is not the first to claim that Facebook has a Black people problem. In 2018, one employee left the company and wrote a memo complaining that the company was “failing its Black employees and Black users.” He said he encountered discrimination and exclusion throughout his time at Facebook.

Then, last November, a dozen people, all current or former Facebook employees, published another memo complaining of racism at the company.

Many employees were also concerned that Facebook decided to leave a racial inflammatory post by President Trump up without challenge or fact-checking. The group that made that decision included only one Black person, the chief of diversity.

What does racism look like?

Is Facebook engaging in practices that discourage diversity or actively discriminate against Black recruits and employees? Is hiring for “cultural fit” an example of a racist practice? Does relying on other employees to review a worker tend to pass along stereotypes? What can companies do to encourage Black applicants and to improve their standing?