Palantir to Department of Labor: We hire plenty of Asians

Peter Thiel_RNC Peter Thiel Alex Wong/Getty

Palantir, known in Silicon Valley as the secretive big data startup founded by tech billionaire Peter Thiel, has filed a response to the Department of Labor after the agency sued the company, alleging that Palantir was discriminating against Asian job applicants.

The lawsuit stated, for example, that the company received more than 730 "qualified applicants" for its QA Engineer position, 77% of whom were Asian, and hired six non-Asians and one Asian. It cited similar concerns about two other job titles, too, software engineer and QA engineer intern.

Now, Palantir has done what it does best: sifted through all of its HR and applicant info and produced a data-filled response that it believes refutes the allegations, reports Fortune's Michal Lev-Ram.

Palantir says that the suit ignores 41 other job titles for which the company hired people during the 18-month analysis period conducted by the Labor Department. It said for those other job titles, 36% of people that it hired in that time frame were Asian. It says that 37% of its product engineering team and 25% of its total workforce is Asian.

That doesn't mean that Palantir didn't use discriminatory hiring practices, as the Labor Departments contends, but it is unusual for a Valley tech company to find itself in such a lawsuit.

In terms of diversity in most tech companies, Asians tend to be overrepresented compared to the general US Asian population, which comes in at about 6%, according to the Census Bureau. It is African-Americans, Latin-Americans, and women who stick out as the most underrepresented folks.

As Lev-Ram points out, this suit wasn't a result of a complaint by an employee, but arose from the fact that, as a government contractor, Palantir must report its diversity statistics to the government.

Interestingly, Palantir has some experience with unusual government lawsuits.

The company is currently suing the US Army for the way it wrote the request for proposals to build the Army’s next-generation intelligence system. It alleges the Army drafts its RFPs to favor its traditional IT contractors. Lots of companies file complaints after a contract is awarded. This suit is unusual because it is challenging the bidding process itself, before this next phase of the contract is awarded, reports Bloomberg's Lizette Chapman.

Palantir has not responded to a request for comment.


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