Mr. Trump has been a vocal critic of temporary worker visas. In October, his administration announced new rules for the H1-B program, substantially raising the wages that U.S. companies must pay foreign hires and narrowing eligibility criteria for applicants.
The Justice Department has rarely sued tech companies on the issue, though other agencies have accused the firms of racial or gender bias. In 2016, the Labor Department sued the data firm Palantir, alleging bias against Asians. The Labor Department separately sued Google to reveal data on hiring based on gender, race, religion and sexual orientation.
According to its complaint, the Justice Department found that between Jan. 1 and Sept. 18 last year, Facebook routinely put H1-B and other immigrant temporary workers on a track for permanent employment that was not available to U.S. citizens. Facebook also used less effective methods to advertise jobs to U.S. workers, including declining to promote the positions on Facebook.com/careers, the department said.
The hiring spotlighted by the complaint made up just 0.5 percent of Facebook’s 50,000 employees. But the Justice Department said Facebook had violated federal labor laws that require employers to make permanent employment opportunities as easily available to U.S. workers as they are to foreign visa holders.
“Facebook’s discriminatory recruitment and hiring practice is routine, ongoing and widespread,” the complaint said.
Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, has for years made fighting for immigrants’ rights to work in the U.S. tech industry a pet issue. In 2013, he and several friends created Fwd.us, a nonprofit group that pushed for an overhaul of immigration laws and stumped for easing the immigration process for tech workers.
The issue has been a source of friction between Mr. Zuckerberg and Mr. Trump. In 2015, leaders at Fwd.us chafed at Mr. Trump’s immigration proposals, which would have restricted H-1B visas for skilled, foreign-born employees. They claimed that the plan would “radically restrict” paths to the United States for immigrant tech workers.