Services & Software

Facebook slapped with racial discrimination suit

The lawsuit alleges a facility manager at the social networks' North Carolina data center used racial slurs when referring to black employees.

Facebook was struck with a racial discrimination lawsuit after two black employees at the social network's North Carolina data center alleged the company didn't respond promptly to repeated complaints of harassment.


A sculpture at the front of Facebook's data center in Forest City, North Carolina.

Rainier Ehrhardt, Getty Images

The suit, filed Tuesday in US District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges Facebook allowed "retaliation against the employees reporting discrimination to fester and continue" at the facility despite their continued complaints.

Robert Baron Duffy, a former employee, and Robert Louis Gary, a current employee, allege a facility manager used racial slurs when referring to black employees. They also say they were paid less than white colleagues.

Facebook didn't respond properly to alleged discrimination at the North Carolina facility, which the plaintiffs say took place over a three-year period, said Sonya Smallets, a lawyer at San Francisco-based Minnis & Smallets who is representing Duffy and Gary.

"In general, when people speak up to their employer and the situation is not addressed," Smallets said, "there is a sense that this has gone beyond one person and it's an issue of the company failing to respond."

The complaint asks for more than $25,000 in compensatory and punitive damages per plaintiff.

A Facebook spokesperson said the "claims were without merit."

"We investigated and took quick action to terminate [the manager's] employment and provided extensive anti-bias, anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training to all data center employees nationwide," the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "Additionally, we've continued to monitor the work environment at [the North Carolina facility], and all US data centers, to ensure that improper not repeated."

This complaint follows a lawsuit filed earlier this month that says an internal Facebook ad tool violates anti-discrimination laws for housing, credit and employment. That suit seeks class-action status.

Facebook has since said it will not let advertisers use its "ethnic affinity groups" in ads focused on those three legally protected categories.