Meta must face lawsuit claiming it prefers foreign workers over US citizens

By Daniel Wiessner

(Reuters) -A U.S. appeals court on Thursday revived a software engineer’s proposed class action claiming Meta Platforms refused to hire him because it preferred to give jobs to foreign workers who are paid lower wages.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 ruling said that a Civil War-era law barring discrimination in contracts based on “alienage” extends to bias against U.S. citizens.

The decision reverses a California federal judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit by Purushothaman Rajaram, a naturalized U.S. citizen who says Meta passes over American workers for jobs in favor of cheaper visa recipients. Rajaram is seeking to represent a class that includes thousands of workers.

Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, and lawyers for Rajaram did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The company in court filings has denied wrongdoing and said Rajaram failed to show that Meta intended to discriminate against U.S. workers.

The 9th Circuit had never before addressed whether the federal law, Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, provides protections from hiring discrimination for U.S. citizens.

The only other appeals court that has, the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit, said the law did not apply to U.S. citizens in a 1986 decision. The split created by the 9th Circuit on Thursday raises the chances that the U.S. Supreme Court could hear the case if Meta appeals.

(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)