Google has fended off a lawsuit claiming that women employees at the company are paid less than their male counterparts. A California Superior Court judge dismissed the lawsuit filed by three former female former employees on behalf of women employed by Google in California over the past four years because the complaint was too broad. However, the dismissal is with leave to amend so the plaintiffs can refile their complaint with amendments to address the flaws noted by the judge.
The court determined that there was not enough information to support that allegation that Google was practicing a policy of paying all women at Google less than men. A key assertion made by the women was that the U.S. Department of Labor had “found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce.’” The court decision noted that two of the three women also failed to provide conclusive evidence that they performed comparable work to the men who were allegedly paid more.
The victory may be short-lived. The judge has allowed the women 30 days to file a new lawsuit, this time on behalf of specific groups of women who they can demonstrate were affected by Google’s pay policies. The 30-day deadline is January 4, 2018.
The lawsuit was based, in part, on an investigation of the search giant being undertaken by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program’s (OFCCP). OFFCP is determining whether Google may be paying women less than men for similar job positions after reviewing an employment data “snapshot” from 2015 for 21,000 workers located at Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA. In reviewing the data, the OFCCP determined that Google may be paying women less than men for similar job positions. Google has disputed the OFCCP’s assertion that it may have a systematic pay equity gender gap.
The three women who filed the lawsuit have said they resigned from Google because of unequal compensation and lack of opportunities for advancement for women. The women say they were placed into lower career tracks, and received lower salaries and bonuses, compared to male co-workers with equal experience.
The women cited violations of California’s Equal Pay Act.
The case highlights the challenges for both companies and employees in proving or disproving pay discrimination, and the time and money it can take to engage in these types of legal proceedings.
Employers should regularly review their compensation practices to be sure they meet the various federal, state and local laws to ensure that workers are paid equally regardless of their gender, ethnicity or race. The trend has been to develop increasingly rigorous equal pay regulations and enforcement. Companies should keep current with changes in state and local laws in the communities in which they operate.
Companies should also review their data management infrastructure in preparation for government inquiries and/or potential pay discrimination lawsuits. Now is the time to start preparing a system that makes it easy to both collect employment data and use it effectively to power your business to greater success and defend against potential risks from potential pay discrimination claims.