Google has claimed that it is too expensive and ‘logistically challenging’ to hand over wage data to the US Department of Labor (DoL) in an increasingly problematic discrimination case for the internet search giant.
In a courtroom in San Francisco on Friday, Google officials testified that it would need to spend up to 500 hours of work and $100,000 to comply with investigators’ on-going demands for wage data.
Kristin Zmrhal, Google’s senior legal operations manager insisted the task had become “too burdensome” with the tech giant forced to hire a third-party vendor to help compile the data. “The team was bogged down” she said.
The DoL have rejected the tech giant’s arguments with government attorney Ian Eliasoph contending that “Google would be able to absorb the cost as easy as a dry kitchen sponge could absorb a single drop of water.”
The current court battle stems from a lawsuit filed by the DoL in January following the tech firm’s continuing refusal to hand over job and salary history for Google employees, originally requested in a DoL audit back in 2015.
As a federal contractor, Google is required to allow the DoL to inspect and copy records and information about its compliance with equal opportunity laws. The lawsuit, which was filed on the 26th of December, 2016, it states that:
“The contract signed by Google “incorporates an equal employment opportunity clause” as required by federal law. Thus Google, in agreeing to comply with this executive order “permits the Government to inspect and copy any books, accounts, records (including comprised records), and other material that may be relevant to the matter under investigation””
A court hearing in April raised the public profile of the case significantly with the DoL accusing Google of discrimination against its female employees. “We found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce,” Janette Wipper, a DoL regional director, testified in court in April.
“We found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce.”
Google have continually denied claims that it underpays female employees.
Lisa Barnett Sween, one of Google’s attorneys labelled the DoL investigation a “fishing expedition that has absolutely no relevance to the compliance review” with requests for data that were “overbroad”, revealed confidential information, and violated employees’ privacy.
Following on from the hearing in April, the Mountain View firm looked to counter the negative publicity surrounding the lawsuit with a keynote by Head of People Operations’ Eileen Naughton. She looked to reaffirm the company’s commitment to pay equality stating that their own pay equity model showed “no statistically significant differences between men’s and women’s compensation”.
— Google (@Google) April 4, 2017
While Google looks to defend it’s policies on gender and race pay gaps, and discrimination surveys have repeatedly found that women are often paid less than men for the same jobs across Silicon Valley.
The DoL case against Google is an indication of increased focus on gender and race discrimination the tech industry. Fellow tech giant Oracle and Palo Alto analytics company Palantir, both face DoL law suits for race discrimination, accusations both companies deny.
The lawsuit (known as a ‘complaint’ in US Law) can be read in full here.