Palantir, a large and secretive Silicon Valley start-up recently sued by the United States Department of Labor for discrimination, contends that the government misread the way it hires employees.
In a filing on Friday, the company said a government audit initiated in 2010 looked at 18 months of employment data, and found discrimination against Asians in three of 44 job titles. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs erred in weighing all résumés, including unsolicited applications from sites like Craigslist, as if they were from people with the relatively demanding skills required at a place like Palantir, the company argued.
The filing also said that Palantir had hired outside experts who reviewed its practices and found no discrimination, and noted that several members of its senior leadership, as well as hiring managers, were themselves Asian.
Palantir, based in Palo Alto, Calif., specializes in sophisticated pattern-finding software, and counted the federal government among its first customers. Originally specializing in matters like profiling terrorist organizations and tracing money laundering, the company has since built practices in areas like selling distressed mortgages and maximizing retail sales of candy.
The Labor Department sued Palantir in late September after what both sides characterized as years of private negotiations to settle the case. The department asked that, should its suit succeed, the government cancel all its contracts with Palantir.
That would be disastrous for the company. Palantir, privately valued at about $20 billion and counting numerous well-known investors, will most likely generate more than $1 billion in revenue this year. Nearly half of that comes from federal contracts, including with the Army, the Central Intelligence Agency and disaster relief organizations. With Palantir’s filing, the case will now head for court. Settling the matter may take a year or more.
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