Google Pushes Back Against Claims of Gender Pay Discrimination

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on April 12, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In January, the Department of Labor sued Google, accusing it of withholding information on pay disparities from federal regulators. Then, last Friday, the DOL accused Google of "systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce."

Now, Google is pushing back, arguing that its internal analyses ensure that "our pay practices remain aligned with our commitment to equal pay."

Google's Alleged Gender Discrimination

Claims that Google had "systemic compensation disparities" came last week, during testimony in a lawsuit seeking to compel the company to provide salary data to the government.

First, some back story: As a federal contractor, Google must comply with anti-discrimination laws and DOL compliance investigations. But, the search giant argues, turning over the data the government wants, including information on 20,000 employees and from 54,000 interviews, would be excessively burdensome and risk exposing employees' confidential, private information. When the company refused to comply with the DOL's information requests, the agency sued, leading to last week's courtroom scene.

Testifying in San Francisco, DOL regional director for the Pacific Region Janette Wipper, claimed that Google's female employees suffered from widespread pay disparity.

Regional solicitor for the DOL Janet Herold, later commented that, "The investigation is not complete, but at this point the department has received compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters."

"The government's analysis at this point," she continued, "indicates that discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry."

Google's Own Analysis Tells a Different Tale

Google, however, has its own analysis. In a blog post on Tuesday, Google Vice President of People Operations Eileen Naughton said the company was "surprised" and "taken aback" by the accusations. Google's annual pay analysis helps ensure that no such disparities exist, Naughton said.

That analysis, which Naughton described as "extremely scientific and robust," looks at compensation to ensure "no statistically significant differences between men's and women's compensation" in the same positions. That analysis "gives us confidence that there is no gender pay gap at Google," according to Naughton.

Google claimed on April 4th, Equal Pay Day, that it had "closed the gender pay gap globally" and provided "equal pay across races in the U.S."

Whether the government ultimately agrees with that determination remains to be seen.

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