Palantir Discriminates Against Asians, U.S. Labor Agency Alleges

  • Complaint follows review of hiring practices started in 2010
  • Thiel company threatened with loss of federal contracts
Photographer: Kristoffer Tripplaar/Sipa via AP Photo

Palantir Technologies Inc. discriminates against Asian job applicants in its hiring and selection process, the U.S. Department of Labor alleged in an administrative complaint.

Co-founded by billionaire Peter Thiel, the data analysis company is among the most highly vaunted of Silicon Valley startups, securing a $20 billion valuation last year, in part for its contracts with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Special Operations Command and the Army.

Lisa Gordon, a spokeswoman for Palantir, said the company will defend itself “vigorously” and denies allegations of bias. “The results of our hiring practices speak for themselves,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Despite repeated efforts to highlight these outcomes, the Department of Labor relies on a narrow and flawed statistical analysis relating to three job descriptions from 2010 to 2011.” The Labor Department had no immediate further comment.

Silicon Valley has been under pressure to increase diversity across the industry. In recent years, technology companies have made public commitments to increasing hiring of minorities and women while releasing more information about the demographics of their workforces. Progress has been slow.

The complaint follows a review by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which evaluated Palantir’s hiring and selection processes beginning in January 2010, according to the Labor Department. The review found that Palantir relied on a system of employee referrals, which, along with its resume and phone hiring process, resulted in bias against Asians, the agency said.

The department is asking an administrative law judge to award lost wages, interest, retroactive seniority and all other lost benefits of employment. The government said it filed the complaint after the department and Palantir were unable to resolve the findings through the conciliation process. Palantir’s government contracts should be canceled, and it should be disbarred from securing future ones if it doesn’t meet the department’s demands, according to the complaint.

Meanwhile, Palantir is engaged in a separate dispute with the government. The Palo Alto, California, company sued the Army earlier this year, claiming it favored existing contractors and blocked Palantir from competing for the first part of what will likely be a multibillion-dollar contract.

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