SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Three women filed a gender-bias class action against Google on Thursday, claiming the technology titan pays them substantially less than men for performing similar work.
Kelly Ellis, Holly Pease and Kelly Wasuri sued in San Francisco County Superior Court, claiming Google violates California’s Equal Pay Act and other state labor laws by systematically paying them lower wages for doing the same jobs as their male counterparts.
“Google has discriminated and continues to discriminate against its female employees by systematically paying them lower compensation than Google pays to male employees performing substantially similar work under similar working conditions,” the three plaintiffs say.
Additionally, they claim Google keeps women partitioned in compensation levels with lower ceilings and routinely thwart advancement opportunities for female employees by promoting fewer women and more slowly than males in the company.
Google denies the allegations.
“In relation to this particular lawsuit, we’ll review it in detail, but we disagree with the central allegations,” Gina Scigliano, senior manager of corporate communications at Google, said in a statement.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of other allegations the company does not treat male and female employees equally, as the U.S. Department of Labor is investigating the company for gender discrimination in its hiring practices.
In April, the Labor Department’s regional director Janette Wipper testified in federal court that Google engaged in “systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce.”
Google also vehemently denied the content of Wipper's testimony, saying it performs annual audits related to pay equity and found no pay gap.
The issue first came to light during a statistical regression analysis performed by the Labor Department Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. Because Google is a federal contractor, it is required to submit to such audits.
“The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program’s analysis found six to seven standard deviations between pay for men and women in nearly every job classification in 2015,” the suit says. “Two standard deviations is considered statistically significant; six or seven standard deviations means there is a one in a million chance that the disparity is occurring randomly or by chance.”
Plaintiff Ellis was hired by Google in 2010 as a software engineer on the Google Photos team. Despite four years of experience, she was hired as a Level 3 engineer – a level reserved for recent college graduates.
That same year, a male counterpart was hired for a similar position on the same team. Having graduated the same year as Ellis and with similar work experience he was hired as a Level 4 engineer, according to the complaint.
“Google also placed and promoted other male software engineers with qualifications equal to or less than Ms. Ellis’s qualification into Level 4 and higher on Ms. Ellis’s team and on other similar engineering teams,” the suit says.
Furthermore, despite excellent performance reviews, Ellis says Google denied a promotion she applied for about a year after her hire date, with the company telling her she wasn’t tenured long enough.
Meanwhile, the men who were already making more than Ellis were busy getting promoted and moving ahead from their initial salary points that were already ahead of Ellis, according to the lawsuit.
Ellis resigned in 2015, citing a sexist work culture.
Pease was hired as a corporate network manager in 2005, according to the complaint.
She arrived at the company with 10 years of experience as a network engineer, and became data warehouse manager shortly after being hired.
Despite managing engineering teams that developed software applications, data warehouses, services and data analytics, Pease says she was kept on a nontechnical job ladder, meaning lower salary compensation and less room for upward mobility throughout the company.
Pease says she actually coached a male counterpart on how to transition between the nontechnical and technical career ladders within the company, something he managed to do despite performing poorly on the technical tests.
But Pease says she was denied the same opportunity, leading her to resign in 2016 when it became clear Google would not abet her progress to higher salaries and responsibilities.
Wisuri joined Google in 2012 in the sales division after tech giant acquired the company she worked for.
At the time of the acquisition, Google placed Wisuri at a Level 2 sales position despite her 2 1/2 years of experience in the sales department, the lawsuit says. Furthermore, the company added men with equivalent and less experience to Level 3.
Also, Wisuri says Google kept her in the Sales Enabler career ladder instead of the Sales ladder, limiting her ability to move upward through the company and receive just compensation for her skills and output.
“Almost all of the employees on the Sales teams Ms. Misuri worked with were men,” the complaint says. “About 50 percent of the employees she encountered with Sales Enablement jobs, however, were women.”
Wisuri also resigned from Google in 2015, citing a lack of advancement opportunities for women at the company.
Google said Thursday that it employs several levels of committees and individuals when determining job levels and ladders.
“Job levels and promotions are determined through rigorous hiring and promotion committees, and must pass multiple levels of review, including checks to make sure there is no gender bias in these decisions,” Scigliano said.
The women seek class certification, all wages due under California Labor Code plus 10 percent interest, restitution and damages.
They are represented by James Feinberg of Altshuler Berzon in San Francisco.
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