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We don’t pay women less, Google fires back in response to Department of Labor findings

Google's VP of People Operations authors blog post about firm's focus on pay equity

Why it matters to you

Inequality in tech is no new subject, but Google is now at the center of an investigation suggesting systemic pay discrepancies between men and women.

Google is none too pleased with a new report from the U.S. Department of Labor claiming the company displays “systemic compensation disparities.” On Friday, Janette Wipper, a regional director of the federal agency, said it found “compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce.” The findings come as part of a continuing investigation against the tech giant, which is accused of violating federal employment laws due to salary inequities between genders.

The Silicon Valley company disputed the findings. A spokesperson told TechCrunch, “We vehemently disagree with Ms. Whipper’s claim. Every year, we do a comprehensive and robust analysis of pay across genders and we have found no gender pay gap. Other than making an unfounded statement which we heard for the first time in court, the DoL hasn’t provided any data, or shared its methodology.”

And on Tuesday, Google’s vice president of people operations, Eileen Naughton, authored a blog post outlining the company’s focus on pay equity. Noting that Google publicly shared its top-level analysis of the pay gap (and how to combat it) in 2016, Naughton noted that the tech giant was “quite surprised when [the DoL] accused us of not compensating women fairly.” Writing that the assertion lacked “supporting data or methodology,” Naughton further argued that Google’s own annual analysis is “extremely scientific and robust,” and that its results have been entirely antithetical to those from the government agency.

According to Google, the company reevaluates its employees compensation every year in a gender-blind manner, taking into consideration the role, job level, job location, and current and recent performance ratings. Then, Google uses its pay equity model to examine employees within the same job categories, and “analyzes their compensation to confirm that the adjusted amount shows no statistically significant differences between men’s and women’s compensation,” Naughton explained. The conclusion in 2016 was that there was no gender pay gay, Google said. “Nevertheless, if individual employees are concerned, or think there are unique factors at play, or want a more individualized assessment, we dive deeper and make any appropriate corrections.”

Janet Herold, regional solicitor for the DoL, doesn’t seem convinced by the tech company’s denial. In an interview with the Guardian, she noted, “The investigation is not complete, but at this point the department has received compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters … The government’s analysis at this point indicates that discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry.”

Google has been embroiled in a legal battle with the DoL since January, in which the Department has asked the company to turn over job and salary history of employees. Google has refused to comply with these requests, however, and while a spokesperson said at the time that Google had provided “hundreds of thousands of records” to the government, it would appear that the DoL is not satisfied with the firm’s compliance.

The legal battle is clearly far from over; on Friday, one of Google’s lawyers, Lisa Barnett Sween, called the DoL’s request for documentation unconstitutional, and a “fishing expedition that has absolutely no relevance to the compliance review.”

Article updated on 04-11-2017 by Lulu Chang: Added news of Google’s latest blog post focusing on pay equity.