Feds sue Peter Thiel’s Silicon Alley startup for discriminatory hiring


AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

He’s here, he’s queer, he’s Republican — and now Peter Thiel and one of his companies are the target of a federal lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The billionaire founder of PayPal — who was the first out gay person to address a Republican National Convention in 16 years, and the first one ever to mention his sexual orientation — runs a secretive tech startup in Palo Alto, Calif. called Palantir. According to Vice News, the feds filed a lawsuit Monday claiming the company violated federal employment law by “using a hiring process and selection procedures that discriminated against Asian applicants for software engineering positions on the basis of their race.”

The Donald Trump supporter made headlines earlier this year when it emerged he had financed Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit that bankrupted Gawker publisher Nick Denton and forced him to sell his company to Univision to settle his $125 million debt to the former wrestler.

The employment data website Glassdoor says the $20 billion company is one of the most highly desirable places to work in Silicon Valley, and in the world. Software engineers at Palantir earn six-figure salaries, and interns are paid as much as $7,500 a month on top of free corporate housing in Palo Alto or New York. But getting in that door, if your name is of Asian heritage, is allegedly a problem.

The lawsuit says that Palantir managers selected 14 non-Asian applicants and 11 Asian applicants for software engineering jobs, from a pool of 1,160 “qualified applicants,” of whom “approximately 85 percent were Asian.”

The company hired 17 non-Asian applicants for quality assurance engineering intern roles, and four Asian applicants from a pool of 130 candidates that was “approximately 73 percent Asian.” Palantir is accused of screening Asian applicants at the resume stage, and also discriminating against them even when referred by Palantir employees.

This could be really bad news for Palantir, which gets a significant chunk of business from the federal government. The Labor Department tells Vice News that if Palantir “fails to provide relief as ordered,” the result could be “the cancellation of all of the company’s government contracts and debarment from entering into future federal contracts.”

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