Pfizer’s prestigious Breakthrough Fellowship Program is restricted to black, Latino and Native American applicants, a requirement some civil rights experts say is illegal.
The company’s Breakthrough Fellowship Program is part of a concerted effort to increase racial diversity within its ranks, with a goal of bringing in 100 new fellows by 2025. White applicants are not eligible for participation in the program based on their race, nor are Asians.
Requirements to apply for the program include being a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, being a current junior in college and helping to “meet the program’s goals of increasing the pipeline for Black/African American, Latino/Hispanic and Native Americans.”
Civil rights experts told The Washington Free Beacon that the program likely violates civil rights law. Attorney Adam Mortara called the program “flagrantly illegal” and U.S. Commission on Civil Rights member Gail Heriot said it was a “clear case of liability.”
“This Pfizer program is so flagrantly illegal I seriously wonder how it passed internal review by its general counsel,” said Adam Mortara, one of the country’s top civil rights attorneys.
— Aaron Sibarium (@aaronsibarium) August 30, 2022
Under a Frequently Asked Questions document on the program, Pfizer describes itself as an “equal opportunity employer” and encourages college students who don’t meet the criteria for the Breakthrough Fellowship Program to apply for one of the other “programs and opportunities” the company offers.
The Breakthrough Fellowship Program offers college juniors a 10-week summer internship, two years of full-time employment after undergraduate graduation, a full scholarship to pursue a two-year graduate program after the two-year employment period and a future job offer after the completion of a postgraduate degree.
“As students receive mentoring and professional development, they also will have the opportunity to grow within the organization, which will lead to parity at all levels to create a vibrant culture where every colleague has the opportunity to succeed,” CEO Albert Bourla said regarding the program.
According to an annual review, the program’s first class of fellows was 55% female, 40% black, 40% “Latinx/Hispanic” and 20% two or more races. (RELATED: Moderna Suing Pfizer For COVID-19 Vaccine Patent Infringement)
Pfizer has benefitted from the COVID-19 pandemic, seeing record profits thanks to the development of its mRNA COVID-19 vaccine and antiviral pill Paxlovid. The company has openly stated it hopes to continue profiting from the global pandemic, which has killed more than six million people, for years to come.