Google fails to get judge to toss ‘extreme’ female pay-discrimination case

The way Google tells it, the U.S. Department of Labor has already made up its mind that the Mountain View tech giant is guilty of “extreme” discrimination against female employees.

Early last month, the Labor Department had claimed in a court hearing that its probe of Google had “found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce.” A department lawyer told The Guardian newspaper the pay discrimination was “quite extreme.”

The department is suing Google, alleging the company is withholding pay and personnel data in violation of its obligations as a federal contractor.

In a pre-hearing filing, the department had alleged that Google was battling to keep investigators’ eyes off the company’s salary data. The latest ruling in the case shows the company continuing that fight.

In a blog post last month about the allegations, Google’s vice president of HR denied the firm paid women less, saying the firm’s “extremely scientific and robust” study of its own practices found no pay gap.

Google has been trying to get the case — which began with a compliance review of the firm’s pay practices as a federal contractor — thrown out, the latest ruling shows.

The firm argues that statements from Labor Department officials in the April hearing and to the media show the department has already finished its review and determined Google is guilty as alleged — and that U.S. officials are demanding more information only to prepare for upcoming litigation, according to a May 2 administrative court ruling obtained by Law.com.

The ruling indicates Google wants the case tossed so it won’t have to cough up any more information about what it pays to whom. The company contends that the department “is not entitled to additional information from Google because its compliance review is complete,” according to the ruling.

Judge Steven Berlin of the San Francisco administrative court for the Labor Department on May 2 shut down Google’s bid to torpedo the case. He found that the department never claimed the company had intentionally discriminated against women, but instead its theory “appears to be that Google has, at certain times (perhaps only in the past) had practices that — while neutral on their face — had an adverse impact based on sex, resulting in lower pay for women.”

The department’s review isn’t completed with a finding of pay disparity, Berlin wrote. Investigators must go on to find out what is causing it or has caused it, and if it’s no longer an issue, whether “another policy has continued the adverse effects.”

“Google’s motion to dismiss is DENIED.”

A Google spokesperson said May 4 that the company was “pleased the court has determined (the department) has made no findings of discrimination in pay and look forward to continuing the hearing on the access demands.

“As we’ve stated before, our analysis gives us confidence there is no gender pay gap at Google.”

Photo: Technology workers at Google’s campus. (Bay Area News Group)

 

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