The Government Has Reversed Its Policy on Silicon Valley Diversity Data

This story was originally published by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit news organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more at revealnews.org and subscribe to the Reveal podcast, produced with PRX, at revealnews.org/podcast.

Federal labor officials have decided to reverse their longtime policy and release diversity numbers for government contractors such as Oracle and Palantir Technologies in response to a lawsuit filed by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.

Reveal submitted Freedom of Information Act requests for the workplace statistics of those and other tech companies as part of a project analyzing the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley. We requested the companies’ official EEO-1 reports, which show the race and gender numbers for total US employees grouped by broad job categories.

But five companies – Oracle, Palantir, Pandora Media, Gilead Sciences and Splunk – objected to the requests, claiming that the diversity data is a trade secret. In each case, the US Department of Labor initially agreed with the companies and denied Reveal’s FOIA requests.

For many years, the Labor Department has allowed federal contractors to block public records requests for their demographics by calling them trade secrets.

We filed a lawsuit in April, alleging that the Labor Department was violating the Freedom of Information Act. The lawsuit calls the trade secret argument unjustified and asks for an injunction requiring the Labor Department to “promptly release the withheld records.”

On Oct. 30, the Labor Department notified the five government contractors that it would disclose their diversity numbers over their objections. Citing the lawsuit, the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs told the companies that it has “undertaken a supplemental review” and “will initiate…

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