By Ryan Velez
A recent article from The Verge says that tech giant Google has been sued by the US Department of Labor for allegedly withholding information relevant to a compliance audit. What’s the major issue being thrust into the spotlight? Google’s pay for its female employees. 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. This would be confirmed by DoL Regional Solicitor Janet Herold.
While investigations are still ongoing, Herold said that the agency “received compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters.” Google was quick to fire back. In a formal statement, it said that it ‘vehemently disagree[s] with [Wipper’s] claim,” adding that its annual analysis had no evidence of a pay gap. In addition, they say that the Department of Labor had not brought this accusation to their attention before, nor did they provide information on the methods they used to arrive at this conclusion. In a tweet earlier this week, they said that they had globally closed the wage gap between genders.
But how does such an accusation make it to court? The initial lawsuit took place when Google didn’t turn over some requested data on employee compensation during a September 2015 audit. Their explanation for this is that the information was withheld for privacy reasons and that the request from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) was “overly broad.” The Department of Labor’s move to court is an attempt to compel them to provide said information. Despite a judge denying their request for a summary judgment in February, they are still trying. The exact part where the two are clashing regards what type of information falls under the regulations, such as employee names and contact information.
Perhaps the best ammunition that the DoL has is from Google itself. The agency has pointed out Google’s own policies and internal affirmative action program, and the fact that it devoted $150 million to address diversity issues as examples that “Google created much of the burden about which it now complains.” The OFCCP has also said that it is willing to bear the cost of compiling the information. Only time will tell if Google will need to hand over said information, and whether it truly shows evidence of discrimination.