Pfizer has excluded Asian and white applicants in its new “Breakthrough Fellowship Program,” a nine-year commitment that aims to boost minority representation in its workforce.
Available to undergraduate students in their junior year, the program will offer an initial 10-week summer internship, two years of full-time employment after undergraduate graduation, a fully paid two-year MBA, MPH or MS Statistics program, another summer internship between the first and second years of the chosen master’s program, and finally, employment with Pfizer after graduation.
Applications will open at the end of Summer 2022 and the beginning of Fall 2022. Aside from obtaining their undergraduate degree in December 2023 or Spring 2024, applicants must be U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents, have a GPA of at least 3.0, demonstrate exceptional leadership potential and have a committed interest in pursuing an MBA, MPH or MS Statistics program.
Applicants must also meet Pfizer’s goals of “increasing the pipeline for Black/African American, Latino/Hispanic and Native Americans.” This leaves out Asian and white applicants, raising discrimination concerns among observers.
“Major corporations seem to have forgotten that there’s such a thing as law,” Gail Heriot, a law professor at the University of San Diego and a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, told the Washington Free Beacon. “They seem to think that as long as they’re woke, they’re bulletproof.”
Asian Americans make up just 6.1% of the U.S. population, lower than Hispanic and Latino Americans (18.9%) and African Americans (13.6%). The non-Hispanic, non-Latino white population makes up 59.3%.
Heriot said the program has a “clear case of liability” under federal law. That includes the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which prohibits racial discrimination in contracting, and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in employment.
At least three other lawyers contacted by the Free Beacon made similar comments. Adam Mortara, dubbed one of the country’s top civil rights attorneys, said the program is “so flagrantly illegal.”
However, Pfizer, which aims to enroll 100 fellows within three years, is reportedly proud of its actions.
“We have every confidence that all of our actions comply fully with all U.S. employment laws, including the Breakthrough Fellowship Program,” a spokesperson told FOX Business. “At Pfizer, we create opportunities for people without taking them away from others. We will continue to strive to create more opportunity, including through specific programs designed to cast a wide net for talent.”
Pfizer also described itself as an “equal opportunity employer.” In response to minorities “not included” in the program, the company said it has “multiple opportunities” available throughout the year.
“We have multiple programs and opportunities throughout the year for undergraduate and graduate students and for Pfizer colleagues generally. For example, any colleague can pursue an MBA or MPH through Pfizer Benefits’ Education Assistance Program. We also host MBA students each summer,” the company said.
“Undergraduates and graduate students who are not eligible or interested in the Breakthrough Fellows Program but would like to pursue a career at Pfizer can apply to the Summer Growth Experience Program and/or create a job alert on our Pfizer.com/Careers page to receive email or text notifications when positions are opened.”