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8 Apr, 2017 11:19

Google accused of ‘systemic’ pay discrimination against women by US Labor Department

Google accused of ‘systemic’ pay discrimination against women by US Labor Department

The US Department of Labor (DoL) has accused Internet search giant Google of discrimination, saying it had evidence of “systemic compensation disparities against women.” Google says the allegations are evidence-free.

A DoL official shed some light on the agency’s allegations at a court hearing in San Francisco.

“We found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce,” Janette Wipper, a Labor Department regional director, testified on Friday, according to the Guardian.

She said the agency found pay disparities in a 2015 snapshot of salaries, adding that to fully assess the problem, officials needed earlier compensation data as well as opportunities to interview employees in person.

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

Regional solicitor for the DoL Janet Herold told the newspaper that although the investigation is not yet over, the department has already received “compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters.”

“The government’s analysis at this point indicates that discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry,” Herold noted.

Google said it disagreed with the charges, saying the DoL’s allegations are evidence-free.

“We vehemently disagree with Ms Whipper’s claim,” a Google spokesperson told TechCrunch in an email. “Every year, we do a comprehensive and robust analysis of pay across genders and we have found no gender pay gap. Other than making an unfounded statement which we heard for the first time in court, the DoL hasn’t provided any data, or shared its methodology.” 

Google attorney Lisa Barnett Sween testified that the DoL’s request constituted a “fishing expedition that has absolutely no relevance to the compliance review” and was an unconstitutional violation of the company’s fourth amendment right to protection from unreasonable searches.

“For some reason or another, Google wants to hide the pay-related information,” DoL attorney Marc Pilotin said, as cited by the Guardian.

The labor department asked the court to cancel all of the company’s federal contracts and block future business with the government if it continues refusing to comply with the audit, the Guardian reported.

In January this year, the DoL filed a lawsuit against Google, seeking to force the company to provide salary data to the government. According to the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), Google failed to submit the data about the company’s equal opportunity program in September 2015.

Google, a federal contractor, is required to allow the agency to inspect and copy records and information regarding its compliance with equal opportunity laws.

A Google spokesperson told Reuters, however, that over the last year, the company provided hundreds of thousands of records to comply with the OFCCP’s audit.        

“However, the handful of OFCCP requests that are the subject of the complaint are overbroad in scope, or reveal confidential data, and we've made this clear to the OFCCP, to no avail,” the spokesperson said.

In 2016, Google reported that women made up 31 percent of its overall workforce.

In January, the DoL filed a lawsuit against another tech giant, Oracle, claiming it paid white male employees more than other workers and favored Asian job applicants. The agency said Oracle refused to provide relevant information about its pay practices. Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger refuted the claims as “politically motivated,” adding that its employment decisions were only based on merit and experience.