Labor Official Skewers Google Over Gender Pay Discrimination

Google has made a practice of paying female employees less than their male counterparts, a Department of Labor official alleged in court testimony last week.

The agency found “systemic compensation disparities,” regional director Janette Wipper said at a hearing in San Francisco, according to reports.

The DoL confirmed the accuracy of the testimony to the E-Commerce Times.

The hearing was in connection with the department’s lawsuit over Google’s failure to hand over detailed compensation data about employees at its Mountain View, California, headquarters.

“Based on what Google has produced thus far and based upon the department’s investigation thus far, this investigation has revealed significant evidence of discrimination in pay against women at Google’s headquarters,” Department of Labor spokesperson Jose Carnevali told the E-Commerce Times.

Google has vehemently denied Whipper’s allegations, insisting that its own analyses show no gender pay gap, and that the Labor Department has not provided any data or shared the methodology underlying its findings.

Compliance Failure

As part of its equal opportunity compliance review, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs in 2015 asked Google to provide compensation data and documents from its headquarters. Since Google is a federal contractor, it must comply with the review.

The DoL earlier this year filed suit against Google, asking the court to cancel all of Google’s federal contracts and bar the firm from all future contracts.

Gender discrimination has been an issue with particular currency in Silicon Valley for many years. In recent years, several high-profile cases have shone a spotlight on it. Among them were the US$16 million lawsuit Ellen Pao brought against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, which she lost. Earlier this year, Pao returned to Silicon Valley as a partner in Kapor Capital, and chief diversity and inclusion officer at the Kapor Center for Social Impact.

The pay gap remains a critical issue. Sixty-three percent of women receive lower salary offers than their male counterparts for the same job, while 53 percent of the time companies interview only male candidates for a job opening, according to a study Hired released last week.

Systemic Issues

Gender pay disparities are a systemic problem in the technology industry, according to Derecka Mehrens, executive director of Working Partnerships USA and cofounder of Silicon Valley Rising.

Women hold only 25 percent of the high-wage, high skill programming and engineering jobs in the industry, she told the E-Commerce Times. They hold 40 percent of the blue-collar, subcontracted jobs that serve the industry, yet those jobs pay only one-sixth as much as the higher-skilled jobs.

“If tech leaders are serious about reducing the gender gap, they need to address … pay discrimination among their direct employees, and raise wages for the subcontracted workers who keep their campuses running smoothly,” Mehrens said.

The DoL earlier this year filed suit against Oracle alleging the company paid white males more than it paid Asian, African American and female workers in similar roles, while favoring Asian-Americans for certain product development and other technical jobs.

Oracle previously has denied the allegations, but the company declined to comment for this story.

The DoL last fall sued Palantir Technologies, led by billionaire investor and PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel, on allegations it discriminated against Asian job applicants. The company has denied those allegations.

David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain's New York Business and The New York Times.

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