In January, the US Department of Labor sued Google, claiming that the company was withholding information relevant to an ongoing compliance audit. Now, the agency claims that it has found “systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce.”
During a court hearing for the case on Friday, DoL Regional Director Janette Wipper explained that the agency determined that the tech giant pays its female employees less than their male counterparts, according to The Guardian. In a statement to the paper, DoL Regional Solicitor Janet Herold confirmed the statement, noting that while the agency was still investigating, it has “received compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters.”
Google denied these allegations, staying in a statement that it “vehemently disagree[s] with [Wipper’s] claim,” and that the company has found no evidence of a pay gap during its annual analysis. It claimed that this was the first time it had heard of these allegations, and that the DoL hasn’t provided the company with information about its methodology or data to support them. In a Tweet posted earlier this week, the company said that it has closed the wage gap between genders globally.
The initial lawsuit was initiated when the company didn’t turn over some requested data on employee compensation during a September 2015 audit. According to Google, that information was withheld for privacy reasons, saying that the request by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) was “overly broad”. The company refused to turn this information over, and the DoL has taken it to court to compel it to do so.
The OFCCPT ensures that businesses which take federal contracts comply with federal law. In particular, any contractor that does more than $10,000 in business with the government for a year is subject to equal employment opportunity regulations, which specifically prohibit contractors from “discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin.”
In February, the OFCCP asked for a summary judgement on the matter, which a judge denied. Despite that setback, the DoL is pressing on. On Friday, the DoL issued a pre-hearing statement, in which it spelled out its case asking the court to compel Google to turn over the information it required to the OFCCP. While neither side disagrees that the tech firm is subject to these regulations, the statement explains that the DoL and Google disagree over a couple of facts: first, that the information including employee names and contact information are relevant to the audit, and that the company faces an “undue burden” by producing this data.
The DoL outlined that Google isn’t burdened by its request, nor is complying interrupting its business. The agency pointed to Google’s own policies and internal Affirmative Action Plan, saying that “Google created much of the burden about which it now complains,” as well as the fact that it’s devoted $150 million to address diversity issues. The agency also noted that the amount of business that Google does with the federal government is irrelevant when it comes with compliance with the federal order: more business doesn’t mean that the bar for an audit is raised. Furthermore, the OFCCP says that it had offered to bear the cost of compiling the information.
Department of Labor claims that Google systematically underpays its female employees – The Verge