Palo Alto data firm fined over discrim­ination

A Palo Alto-based data analysis company has agreed to pay more than $1.6 million to settle a U.S. Department of Labor charge that it discriminated against Asian applicants for software engineering jobs.

Palantir Technologies Inc. provides software and data analysis services for government agencies and private industry.

It received $340 million worth of government contracts between 2010 and 2016 from agencies that included the FBI, U.S. Army and U.S. Special Forces Command, according to the Department of Labor.

The settlement was reached last Thursday and announced by the department on Tuesday.

The department, which is charged with enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws and regulations affecting contractors, accused Palantir of bias against Asian applicants in an administrative lawsuit in September.

The now-settled lawsuit was filed with the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges in Washington, D.C.

It alleged that Palantir systematically discriminated against Asian applicants for engineering positions. It claimed that 85 percent of 1,170 qualified applicants for software engineer jobs were Asian, but only 11 out of 25 hired were Asian.

The lawsuit also alleged that 77 percent of 730 qualified applicants for quality assurance engineer jobs were Asian, but only one of the seven hired was Asian.

The Asian job seekers were those who identified themselves as Asian on their applications. They included Asian-Americans, Asians living in the U.S. and Asians living overseas, according to the Department of Labor.

Under the settlement, Palantir will pay $1,659,434 in back wages, stock options and other compensation to affected applicants and will offer jobs to eight Asian applicants.

Palantir does not admit to any liability in the agreement.

The company said in a statement that it disagrees with the allegations but is glad to have settled the case.

Thomas Dowd, acting director of the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, said in a statement:

“We appreciate Palantir working with us to resolve these issues.”

The compliance office enforces an executive order signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 that forbids contractor discrimination based on race or national origin. It also administers two federal laws that prohibit contractor bias against disabled people and veterans.

Johnson’s order consolidated and strengthened previous orders that banned discrimination beginning at the time of World War II, and designated the Department of Labor as the enforcement agency.

In 2014, President Barack Obama signed additional executive orders extending the ban to forbid contractor discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.