Google is often recognized as one of the best places to work, but recent news of widespread pay disparities may alter that reputation. The spotlight is now flashed upon the technology giant from a proposed class action lawsuit filed by three former female former employees on behalf of women employed by Google in California over the past four years. The suit alleges that women were paid unequally compared to male employees. The women cited violations of California’s Equal Pay Act, in addition to violations of other California state laws.
The lawsuit is based, in part, on an investigation of Google 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.
The three 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 topic of pay inequality between men and women employees at Google was the subject of a New York Times article last month. The article referred to a spreadsheet containing salary and bonus information that was shared by 1,200 Google employees in the U.S. that showed distinct differences in pay and bonuses between male and female employees.
According to Reuters, the lawsuit could be the first proposed class action against Google based on gender. However, investigations into the pay equity practices of Silicon Valley companies are not new. The U.S. Department of Labor sued Oracle America in January, alleging the company has a systemic practice of paying white male workers more than their counterparts in the same job title, which led to pay discrimination against female, African American and Asian employees. Microsoft Corp and Twitter are facing gender discrimination lawsuits brought by former female employees. Qualcomm last year settled a gender discrimination lawsuit over unequal pay for $19.5 million.
While federal enforcement of pay equity issues may be called into question because of the outlook of the current administration, the trend among state and local regulators, particularly along the coasts, is to undertake development of more rigorous equal pay regulations and enforcement.
Companies should be familiar with changes in state and local laws in the communities in which they operate. As regulations change, companies should re-evaluate their compensation practices to be sure they meet the various federal, state and local regulations to ensure that workers are paid equally regardless of their gender, ethnicity or race.
Companies should also review their data management infrastructure in preparation for government inquiries and/or potential pay discrimination lawsuits. Here are some questions to consider:
Do you have the data management infrastructure in place to easily handle government data requests or prepare for a pay discrimination lawsuit? This may require consolidation of time and attendance, payroll, HR, employee census and other data.
Do you have the capability to seamlessly gather and consolidate employee data from an array of disjointed databases for payroll, benefits administration, time and attendance, and other employment data?
As an organization, are you taking advantage of your HR data to mine it effectively for insights to improve your business operations and financial performance?
Would your business benefit from working with a vendor that has expertise in data management and consolidation?
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.