Google Accused of ‘Systemic’ Gender Pay Discrimination by Labor Department

This Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, photo shows Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

The Department of Labor has accused Google of severely discriminating against its female employees by paying them considerably less than their male counterparts, a report from The Guardian reveals.

According to the publication, a regional director with the Labor Department stated in court there are “systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce.”

The Labor Department filed a lawsuit against Google in January after the company did not provide its pay information as part of a compliance evaluation.

A Labor Department regional solicitor reported to The Guardian that there is “compelling evidence” against the tech giant, which has denied any wrongdoing.

“The government’s analysis at this point indicates that discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry,” Janet Herold, the regional solicitor, also said to the publication.

Herold added that “if the findings are confirmed, this is a troubling situation.”

According to The Guardian, Janette Wipper, the regional director, noticed unequal wages in Google’s 2015 data and needed further information to trace the gap’s source.

“We want to understand what’s causing the disparity,” Wipper said.

Per the lawsuit, if Google continues to withhold its information, its federal contracts will be canceled, and Google and all of its divisions will be unable to enter government contracts and subcontracts until the data is provided.

The Guardian’s report came out just three days after Google tweeted out advice on how other companies could close their own gender pay gaps, alleging that one does not exist among its workforce.

 

Google, which has never applied to participate in the DiversityInc Top 50 competition, has an astounding lack of diversity in its leadership ranks. According to its own diversity data, women make up just 24 percent of leadership throughout the company. Ethnic diversity is also dismal, with leadership being 70 percent white, 25 percent Asian, 2 percent Black, 2 percent two or more races, 1 percent Hispanic and less than 1 percent “other.”

The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity, when expressed as a stock index, outperform the rest of the market, suggesting that good judgment in one area permeates throughout an organization.

Google is required to provide information about its pay history as part of evaluations because it is a federal contractor. But according to January’s lawsuit, the company refused to produce its records even though the Labor Department “repeatedly attempted” to access them.

“Like other federal contractors, Google has a legal obligation to provide relevant information requested in the course of a routine compliance evaluation,” said Thomas M. Dowd, acting director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), in a news release regarding the suit. “Despite many opportunities to produce this information voluntarily, Google has refused to do so. We filed this lawsuit so we can obtain the information we need to complete our evaluation.”

In early January a Google spokesperson reported to Reuters that the company did provide the government with data but that some requests were “overbroad in scope, or [would] reveal confidential data.”

However, the lawsuit states that “as of the date of this Complaint, Google has persisted in its refusal to produce the Subject Items.”

On March 15 a judge denied the Labor Department’s request for a summary judgment, which would have compelled Google to turn over its data without going forward with a trial, because it did not specify clearly enough what information the audit required. According to the ruling, “OFCCP must determine what information it wants and describe it with sufficient specificity for OFCCP to know what it must do to comply.”

“OFCCP could also ask Google to prepare a list of factors it considers when setting compensation,” a judge added. “But Google is not required to anticipate what OFCCP might someday conclude is ‘related to compensation’ and therefore should have been produced.”

Advertisers are finally saying no to Google’s lack of accountability for its content.

Google has encountered other problems this year regarding accountability. In March a boycott of Google and its platforms that began in the United Kingdom spread to the United States amid backlash due to advertisements appearing next to hateful and offensive content. At least 250 organizations have since reportedly withdrawn their advertisements from Google and its subsidiaries. (For most companies, ads will still appear in Google searches.)

The company came under fire for its proposed strategy that did not seem to go far enough to solve the problem.

“They’re saying they’re trying harder — that’s insufficient,” said media analyst for Pivotal Research Group Brian Wieser. “They don’t seem to understand the scale of the perceived problem.”