Google Fights Feds’ Pay Gap Accusations

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Facing a U.S. Department of Labor lawsuit accusing it of hiding evidence of systemic discrimination against female workers, Google on Tuesday struck back publicly by touting its “rigorous” analysis to ensure pay equity.

The Labor Department sued Google in January, claiming the internet search giant refused to turn over salary data and other records requested as part of a compliance review for federal contractors.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Google said it was “surprised” and “taken aback” by allegations that it pays female workers less than men in similar positions.

“The fact is that our annual analysis is extremely scientific and robust,” Google Vice President of People Operations Eileen Naughton wrote in the blog post, describing its process for ensuring company-wide pay equity each year.

Google ran its most recent analysis in late 2016 across 52 major categories and “found no gender pay gap,” according to Naughton.

But Janet Herold, regional solicitor for the Labor Department, told The Guardian on Friday that the government found “systemic disparities against women pretty much across the board” at Google.

As a federal contractor, Google is required to comply with anti-discrimination employment laws and cooperate with investigations by the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

The Labor Department seeks compensation data on more than 20,000 employees that work at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. Records requested also include notes from about 54,000 job interviews, which Google says will cost it more than $1 million to produce.

Administrative Law Judge Steven Berlin denied the department’s motion for summary judgment in a March 15 ruling, finding such relief is not available in a proceeding seeking expedited processing of requested records.

The judge went further in saying even if summary judgment were applicable in this case, he would still deny the request.

Google’s legal obligation to comply with the Labor Department’s investigation is based on a contract it signed with the U.S. General Services Administration for $600,000 in June 2014.

“It begins to appear that the GSA contract had a poison pill that would rob Google of the benefits of the contract: namely, compliance with OFCCP’s demands will far exceed all of Google’s gross revenue under the contract,” Berlin wrote in his eight-page ruling.

The judge also rejected arguments that Google should have no problem complying with the subpoena because its parent company, Alphabet, has “huge resources” with a market value exceeding $500 billion and reported revenues of $90 billion in 2016.

Market value merely represents the value of shares held by investors, not the company’s assets, Berlin wrote, adding that revenue only has meaning when compared to a company’s costs.

Both sides were back in court on Friday arguing over the Labor Department’s subpoena for salary data and other employment records, according to The Guardian.

In its statement Tuesday, Google said the government concluded that it pays women unfairly even as it seeks “thousands of employee records, including contact details of our employees, in addition to hundreds of thousands of documents we’ve already produced in response to 18 different document requests.”

The company said its analysis gives the company confidence that it pays female employees fairly, adding it recently expanded the analysis to cover race for employees in the United States.

Google is not the only technology company to face claims of pay discrimination by the federal government. In January, the Labor Department also sued Oracle, claiming the company pays white male workers more than other employees and that it refused to hand over requested records.

Labor Department spokesman Jose Carnevali did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Monday morning.

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