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US Government Accuses Google of Gender Pay Discrimination

Recently, Google announced that it had closed the gender pay gap at its offices around the world, sharing its fair pay practices on the org’s re:Work site. However, the U.S. Department of Labor disagrees. The DOL is suing Google to obtain data about its salaries “as part of a routine compliance evaluation.” Google, like all federal contractors, must provide documentation proving that it complies with federal labor laws.
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On Friday, Janette Wipper, a regional director for the Department of Labor, testified in court that Google appeared to engage in pay discrimination against women.

“We found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce,” Wipper said, according to The Guardian.

“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,” said Janet Herold, a regional solicitor for the Department of Labor, adding, “The government’s analysis at this point indicates that discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry.”

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Google’s Response

“We vehemently disagree with [the claim],” said a Google spokesperson in an email with TechCrunch. “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.”

Lisa Barnett Sween, a lawyer for Google, said in court that the request was unconstitutional and called it a “fishing expedition that has absolutely no relevance to the compliance review.”

In January, when the department filed its suit, a spokesperson for Google told Reuters that the company had provided “hundreds of thousands of records” to comply with the 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.

The Opportunity Gap in Tech

While the investigation is ongoing, it will be nearly impossible to tell whether Google has a problem with pay discrimination or whether other factors are at play. For example, without seeing the DOL’s methodology, we can’t know whether they’re comparing women and men in the same job roles, with the same skills and experience.

Only 19 percent of Google’s technology jobs are held by women, as are just a third of all jobs at the company. Google’s pay gap — if there is one — may turn out to be an opportunity gap, not overt discrimination.

Only 19 percent of tech jobs at Google are held by women.Click To Tweet

That’s not to say that the opportunity gap isn’t important. PayScale’s report, Inside the Gender Pay Gap, shows that a primary reason that women earn less than men is because they work in lower-paying jobs. To really close the pay gap for good, we need to fix the talent pipeline, and ensure equal opportunity for women in high-paying industries, as well as equal pay in each job role.

But again, until more information becomes available, we won’t know for sure whether Google has closed the pay gap, as they claim, or whether they still have work to do.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you experienced pay discrimination in your career? We want to hear from you. Tell us your story in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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