Expert: Proposed Class-Action Lawsuit Against Google Could Reform Pay Disparities in Other Fields

Trio of former workers claim that pay disparity at search engine giant is not accidental

Aliah D. Wright By Aliah D. Wright September 19, 2017
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​Should the discrimination lawsuit launched against Google by three female former employees reach class-action status, one labor law expert says, it could kick-start pay disparity reform across and beyond the technology industry.

The lawsuit was filed in San Francisco late last week, coming on the heels of an investigation of the tech company by the U.S. Department of Labor, which has accused Google of extreme gender pay disparity.

"Class action is the principal vehicle through which discrimination violations can be remedied," said William Gould, a former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board who teaches law at Stanford University. He told Wired.com, "Corporations pay attention to the potential of monetary liability, and money relief produces reforms better than anything else that exists."

According to news reports, this could be the first class-action sex bias lawsuit against the search engine giant.

The former Google employees—Kelly Ellis, Holly Pease and Kelli Wisuri—claim that Google discriminates against female employees by not paying them in an equal manner to male employees in violation of multiple California laws, including the California Equal Pay Act.

Their suit cites as evidence the Department of Labor's findings that there were "six to seven standard deviations between pay for men and women in nearly every job classification in 2015" at Google. The agency said there was a "one in a 100 million chance that the disparity is occurring randomly."

Google is one of several tech companies to face recent allegations of discrimination:


[SHRM members-only policy: Sexual Harassment Policy and Complaint/Investigation Procedure

In the suit filed Sept. 14, the women say Google broke California laws prohibiting unlawful and unfair business practices and requiring workers to receive the same pay for similar work. The trio's proposed class action is intended to represent women who have worked at Google in California since 2013.

According to Reuters, "The plaintiffs in Thursday's lawsuit are a former Google software engineer, a former communications specialist and a former manager who worked in various roles at the Mountain View, Calif.-based company. They say Google pays women in California less than men who perform similar work and assigns female workers jobs that are less likely to lead to promotions."

Kelly Dermody, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a statement that "while Google has been an industry-leading tech innovator, its treatment of female employees has not entered the 21st century."

Google denied the claims made in the suit.

Said Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano: "If we ever see individual discrepancies or problems, we work to fix them, because Google has always sought to be a great employer for every one of our employees." She said decisions about employment are vetted to guard against gender bias.

 

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