The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) asked a San Francisco federal judge on April 7 to compel Google to provide detailed data regarding systemic gender pay discrimination.
With the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) making a preliminary determination that Google Inc., in its capacity as a federal contractor, has exhibited a pattern of pay discrimination against women, the DOL began a suit in front of a San Francisco Administrative Law Judge to compel Google to allow auditors to inspect and copy records and data about the company’s compliance with federal laws governing equal opportunity.
Google’s labor lawyer attorney Lisa Barnett Sween from Jackson Lewis stated that Google had complied with initial requests. But she argued that the DOL’s demand for employee names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses violated Google’s Constitutional Fourth Amendment right of protection against unreasonable searches.
Silicon Valley CEOs view the DOL’s aggressive action against Google as the first salvo in President Obama’s January 29, 2016 Executive Order that expanded the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) gender compensation audits. Obama’s action came on the seventh anniversary of his signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.
The Order directed the EEOC, in partnership with the DOL, to start collecting summary pay data by gender, race, and ethnicity from all private sector businesses with 100 or more employees. The White House stated that the audits would cover 63 million American workers and “focus public enforcement of our equal pay laws and provide better insight into discriminatory pay practices across industries and occupations.”
President Obama protested that he was forced to issue an Executive Order because Congress had refused to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act that he claimed would “give women additional tools to fight pay discrimination.” Obama issued a report titled “The Gender Pay Gap on the Anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act,” which claimed that the U.S. gender wage gap is now 2.5 percentage points worse than the average for industrialized countries, after the world reduced the pay gap by 7 percentage points since 2000.
DOL Regional Director Janette Wipper testified that the government had collected information to show that Google is violating federal EEOC laws on wages: “We found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce.”
Despite California being the eighth best state in the U.S. for gender equality, the DOL may have chosen to go after Google knowing the U.S. Ninth Circuit has a reputation as America’s most liberal venue.
The DOL filed discrimination lawsuits against Palantir in September for alleged systematic hiring discrimination against Asian job applicants and sued Oracle in January claiming that the company paid white men more than other racial groups. Both company deny the charges as “politically motivated.”