Palantir will pay $1.7 million to settle claims it discriminated against Asians

Big data start-up Palantir will pay nearly $1.7 million to settle claims that the company discriminated against Asian job applicants, federal regulators said Tuesday.

Palantir will pay back wages and other monetary relief, including the value of stock options, to affected applicants of certain engineering jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The Palo Alto company also must extend job offers to eight eligible Asian job candidates who were rejected in 2010 and 2011.

“We appreciate Palantir working with us to resolve these issues,” Thomas Dowd, acting director of the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, wrote in a news release. “Together, we will ensure that the company complies with equal employment opportunity laws in its recruitment, hiring and other employment practices.”

Palantir maintains that it did not discriminate against job applicants.

“We disagree with the allegations made by the Department of Labor,” spokeswoman Lisa Gordon wrote in an emailed statement. “We settled this matter, without any admission of liability, in order to focus on our work. We continue to stand by our employment record and are glad to have resolved this case.”

The settlement means that Palantir’s federal government contracts are safe. The company worked on federal deals worth more than $340 million from 2010 through September, according to the complaint, and the Department of Labor had sought to cancel Palantir’s existing contracts and block future agreements until the alleged discrimination issues were fixed.

The Department of Labor filed a complaint against Palantir last fall, accusing the company of disproportionately turning away qualified Asian candidates who applied for certain engineering positions.

For Palantir’s software engineer position, for example, Palantir hired 14 non-Asian engineers and 11 Asian engineers — even though 85% of the 1,160 applicants for the position were Asian, according to the complaint. Regulators said the likelihood of this happening by chance is about one in 3.4 million.

At the time, Gordon denied the allegations, claiming that they relied on a “narrow and flawed statistical analysis relating to three job descriptions from 2010 to 2011.”

Nevertheless, regulators said Palantir, which is known for doing data work for government organizations like the FBI and CIA, violated laws that make it illegal for contractors doing business with the federal government to discriminate in an employment context on the basis of race, religion, sex or other protected characteristics.

To resolve those claims, Palantir will pay back pay to rejected job candidates, and as engineering positions become available, Palantir must offer them to eight of those candidates who are eligible and have expressed renewed interest in the job. The company also is required to provide anti-discrimination training to supervisors and managers involved in the hiring process for the affected positions.

Kendall writes for the Mercury News/McClatchy.

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