Big data analytics firm Palantir is in danger of losing federal government contracts worth more than $340 million.
On Sept. 26, the U.S. Dept. of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) filed an administrative lawsuit against Palantir, accusing it of discriminating against Asian job candidates.
The suit follows a compliance review that concluded that, from Jan. 1, 2010, at the earliest, until the present, "Palantir utilized and, on information and belief, continues to utilize a hiring process and selection procedures, including an employee referral system … that discriminate against Asian applicants on the basis of their race," states the suit, which was filed with the Department of Labor Office of Administrative Law Judges in Washington, D.C.
The suit refers to three advertised positions. In the case of one, for QA engineers, there were 730 qualified applicants, approximately 77 percent of whom where Asian. Palantir hired one Asian and six non-Asians—an outcome with a statistical likelihood of one in 741, according to the report.
For software engineer positions, there were 1,160 qualified applicants, 85 percent of whom were Asian. Palantir hired 11 Asians and 14 non-Asians, the approximate likelihood of which is one in 3.4 million, said the OFCCP.
Finally, for QA engineer intern positions, 130 qualified people applied, 73 percent of whom were Asian. Palantir hired four Asians and 17 non-Asians.
"The likelihood that this result occurred according to chance," states the suit, "is approximately one in a billion."
(In 2014, Glassdoor.com reported that Palantir interns earn more than $7,000 a month.)
On Oct. 30, 2015, the OFCCP sent Palantir a Notice to Show Cause why the OFCCP shouldn't initiate enforcement proceedings, but before doing so, it "attempted to secure Palantir's voluntary compliance through conciliation." That effort was unsuccessful, states the OFCCP, as was an effort to gain compliance through conciliation before filing the lawsuit.
If Palantir is found to be in violation of Executive Order 1146, which guarantees equal employment opportunities and nondiscrimination in government employment, the OFCCP is asking for orders to cancel all of Palantir's government contracts and subcontracts, to prevent Palantir and its officers and agents from again entering into future government contracts or subcontracts, and to provide "complete relief" to those affected, "including lost compensation, interest and all other benefits of employment resulting from Palantir's discriminatory failure to hire them."
"Federal contractors have an obligation to ensure that their hiring practices and policies are free of all forms of discrimination," OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu said in a Sept. 26 statement. "Taxpayers deserve to know that companies employed with public funds are providing equal opportunity for job seekers."
According to The Mercury News, Palantir spokesperson Lisa Gordon said in an emailed statement that the company intends to "vigorously defend against the allegations."
Gordon also dismissed the suit as focusing on a "narrow and flawed statistical analysis relating to three job descriptions from 2010 to 2011."
Palantir was co-founded by billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel and Joe Lonsdale. Palantir, a so-called tech world "unicorn," raised $800 million during its latest round of funding, for a valuation of $20 billion.