Google underpay women? Department of Labor is investigating

Does Google underpay womenThe US Department of Labor has received compelling evidence of “systemic compensation disparities against women” within the entire workforce of Google. The regional director of Department of Labor, in April 2017 has testified before San Francisco court in an ongoing investigation that Google is violating federal employment laws with its salaries for female workers “in the most common positions at Google headquarters”.

Strengths and weaknesses of being a federal contractor

When you are a federal contractor, meaning that you are entering a contract with US to perform a job or a service, the least you can expect is that your mighty counterparty takes some advantage on you.

For this reason, even a boss like Google must allow the Department of Labor to snoop around its records.

They ask for history: name, gender, job and every available information about every single worker. They look for compliance: US regulates job with equal opportunity laws and scarcely tolerates if you treat unfairly your female workers.

Department of Labor works against discrimination

So, federals go to Google headquarters and ask for data. Google answers a big no because they have a huge amount of data and it would turn to an unreasonable search of too much information.

Federal government does not admit a negative answer against request, but Google is not easily intimidated so the arm-wrestling goes ahead until it lands before San Francisco court.

All the Google’s women

Indeed, Google placed more than a woman at the top of its offices and many of them are now enlarging the staff of other significant organizations.

One of these women was Claire Johnson now running the online payment platform Stripe as a COO.

Before heading to Facebook as a COO, Sheryl Sandberg was in force at Google where founded Lean In, a non-profit organization that helps women to achieve their ambitions.

And how to forget Marissa Mayer, the first engineer in a dress hired by Google responsible of its most successful apps like Google maps and Gmail.

The Happiness Machine

While under investigations for salary gender discrimination, Google is also mentioned by its female workers for offering extra benefits to pregnant workers and mom at work.

Mostly owed to the work of People Operations HR department headed by Laszlo Bock, named after “The Happiness Machine”, Google is monitoring the level of happiness for every woman at work.

When they noticed that new mommies were leaving Google just after giving birth, they decided to retain female engineers and employees switching from an industry-standard maternity leave plan to a characterized one, to leave unaffected a fair number of females.

From 2007 on, mothers at Google can rely on five months off at full pay and full benefits as splitting up time as they wish, taking time off before the due date, take up to two months after giving birth, returning part time and balancing her time off.

Perks that make the company beloved by its employees

For years now Fortune names Google the best company to work for, considering it showers perks on its employees: free gourmet food, laundry service, Wi-Fi (at least), commuting shuttles, payment of half the salary the dead employees received to the survived partner for ten years.

It responds anyway to a specific order: maintain a fair number of female workers, so difficult to do in such a narrow range of skilled workers as technology is, and save recruitment costs letting women stay at work even after giving birth.

Just to mention, just three days before the hearing, Google celebrated Equal Pay Day tweeting the announcement of its closing the gender and race pay gap, globally.

Denial of request prompted to evidence of discrimination

The Department of Labor files a suit against Google to provide compensation data and job records after specific request they denied.

Within the ongoing investigation, the Department finds evidence of extreme violations of female workers salaries, calling it an extreme gender pay gap.

Having received a denial to comply, the Department of Labor submits the case before the San Francisco court and, during the hearing, provided evidence.

Department of Labor asks for cancelation of all Google’s federal contracts

US federal Department of Labor accused Google before San Francisco court claiming compelling evidence of systemic compensation disparities against women and extreme discrimination against female employees in the most common position at Google headquarters.

Attorneys of DoL state that Google is trying to hide the pay-related information within the ongoing investigation about the refusal to show records and information on its compensation as required by contracts entered with federal government to make sure company complies with equal employment laws.

For these reasons, the Department of Labor’s attorneys ask the court to cancel all of Google’s federal contracts and block any further business with the government should not it comply with the audit.

The undue financial burden and the violation of fourth amendment

Legal staff of Google remarks that the Department of Labor’s request “has absolutely no relevance to the compliance review” and it represents an undue financial burden – supposedly 500 hours of work at a cost of 100.000 $ - and an unconstitutional violation of the fourth amendment that grants the right to be protected from unreasonable searches.

Google reacts before Guardian

Google denies every charge of a gender pay gap against the fact that it provides equal wage anyone as it tells the Guardian: “We vehemently disagree with claim. 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 the court, the DoL hasn’t provided any data or shared its methodology”.

Moreover, Google claims to have provided large amount of records excepting confidential information or data violating employees’ privacy because employee names and contact information are not considered relevant to the audit.

Substantiating the accusations

In January 2017, the Department of Labor filed against Google seeking an order to compelling Google to provide salary records, documents and information to government.

Entering into business with government

As a federal contractor with more than 10.000 $ in business providing advertising and cloud computing services to several federal agencies, Google must allow federal agency Department of Labor to inspect and copy labor data in order to verify the company’s compliance with equal opportunity laws to ensure no rule against racial, religious, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin discrimination is violated.

Data are concerning salary history, names and contact information for every employee.

Consequence of the denial to comply with federal agencies requests

Since Google denials access to records, Department of Labor substantiates Google’s violation of its contractual obligation with the federal government.

Appearing before court during a hearing at the US Department of Labor Office of Administrative Law Judges for the compelling order for request of documents, DoL attorneys reveal that a preliminary inquiry had found that Google discriminates women on the basis of a 2015 salaries data excerpt and of the annual report Google is publishing about diversity data.

It showed in the 2016 that women represented 31% of whole workforce holding the 24% of all leadership roles. Indeed, the Department of Labor finds further evidence on the revealing exchange of Google’s director of compensation, Frank Wagner, as he admits in court that if a woman and a man start working for Google with different wages, this disparity could easily persist even if they eventually perform the same excellence level.

On this basis, the Department of Labor regional director for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs claims that Google is practicing systemic compensation disparities against women across the entire workforce.  

Effectiveness of discriminatory practices inside tech ambient

The investigation is ongoing under law provisions whose future is far from being certain. President Obama set protections for female workers that Trump govern has already declared soon to be reduced.

Beside government policy, it is interesting to notice how surveys repeatedly report that discrimination against woman seems to be quite frequent and extreme within tech industries.

However, since 2014 Google releases diversity statistics to visualize gender and races’ rate among its workers.

Is not Silicon Valley a country for women?

Department of Labor has compelled many tech companies to remove discriminatory practices. It filed Palo Alto’s data analytics company Palantir because of its discrimination against Asian job applicants; then, Oracle has been sued for it allegedly pays higher wages to white men than other and discriminates women, black and Asian employees.

Ultimately, Uber has faced misogyny and misconduct allegations for an alleged sexual harassment.