Is Google Guilty of Pay Discrimination?

Where the Department of Labor Stands

As part of an ongoing investigation, the United States Department of Labor believes extensive data exists that shows women at Google face “systematic compensation disparities” compared to their male counterparts.

As is the case with many Silicon Valley companies, Google is very wary of disseminating internal data of any kind. Yet from the data the Department of Labor has been able to receive, top officials within the Department concluded that pay discrimination against women at Google certainly exists. According to DOL regional director Janette Wipper, this pay discrimination is rampant and is seen “pretty much across the entire workforce.” Despite the investigation not being fully complete, DOL regional solicitor Janet Herold says “compelling evidence” exists to prove the DOL’s findings.

As a federal contractor to the United States, Google is required to make their information known to the Labor Department, but up to this point, they have denied to do so. Withholding information from an investigation has led the Labor Department to believe that Google has something to hide, and in turn has heightened the desire within the Department to uncover the truth at Google.

According to Herold, the DOL wants to obtain more information get to the bottom of the situation and, more importantly, ensure that their assertions are factual, which would make the situation definitively “troubling” for Google.

Where Google Stands

Google “vehemently disagrees” with Wipper’s claim that pay discrimination exists within the company. Google’s VP of people operations contended that the company uses an “extremely scientific and robust” system to calculate employee wages. This system quantifies certain factors such as an employee’s role, job level, job location as well as current and recent performance ratings, but the system is “blind” to gender.

Making its methodology known to the public has, in the eyes of many executives at Google,  improved their transparency and has led them to believe the Department of Labor, not themselves, is the party guilty of withholding information.

Google believes its Fourth Amendment rights have been violated throughout the investigation and contend that the investigation by the DOL could be classified as an “unreasonable search.” According to an unnamed executive, Google has given the Labor Department plenty of data, almost to a “privacy-infringing extent.”

Silicon Valley in Trouble

Google is just one of several Silicon Valley tech giants that have been under recent investigation for discriminatory or inappropriate business practices. Uber has made national news over the past few weeks for their rampant discriminatory practices within their company. In light of a recent investigation into the company, CEO Travis Kalanick has stepped down from his post and, in addition, 20 high-ranking employees have been terminated.

The Department of Labor has also been embroiled in a legal battle with Oracle, who they claim have had a history of discriminatory pay practices as well, paying their white male employees more than their non-white and female employees.

Adding Google into this mix does little to refute the longstanding belief that Silicon Valley is known for its discriminatory employment practices that put women, minorities, and older members of the workforce at a disadvantage. Given this track record of tech companies treating their employees in a substandard manner, it will be interesting to see how the Google pay discrimination saga plays out.