IBM, DoJ settle over online job listing discrimination complaint

IBM and the U.S. Justice Department have settled a claim over online job postings which steered towards the hiring of foreign rather than local workers.

Tech giant IBM has agreed to pay $44,400 in civil penalties to settle a complaint made to the U.S. Justice Department (DoJ) over online job posting discrimination.


The tech giant allegedly violated the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) when it placed online job postings for application and software developers. According to the complaint, IBM's job listings contained citizenship status preferences for F-1 and H-1B temporary visa holders.

While F-1 visas are issued to foreign students studying in the U.S. and H-1B visas are issued to specialized foreign nationals, the INA does not allow discrimination based on citizenship status unless required to comply with the law, government edicts or government contracts.

The DoJ said on Friday that even though IBM's online job postings were for positions that would require employees to work overseas, the anti-discrimination provision of the INA does not allow companies to express preferences for specific kinds of visas.

In particular, the INA prevents companies from asking or implying a preference for temporary visa holders rather than consider a local, U.S.-based national.

Under the settlement agreement, IBM will pay $44,400 in civil penalties to the U.S. government, and has also agreed to revise its hiring procedures. The tech giant's HR staff are also required to be retrained in INA compliance, and will have to report to the DoJ for the next two years.

"Employers must give all eligible candidates the equal opportunity to compete for employment," said Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. "The department is committed to ensuring employers do not unlawfully discriminate against U.S. citizens and other work-authorized individuals based on their citizenship status."

In August, due to declining hardware sales and poor profit margins, IBM extended summer vacations for the majority of its U.S.-based hardware staff through a furlough week. The tech giant's Q2 results were a mixed bag, as Big Blue reported earnings of $3.2 billion, or $2.91 a share on revenue of $24.9 billion -- down three percent from a year ago.