Labor Department Sues Google Demanding More Detailed Employee Data

The U.S Department of Labor is suing Google to obtain more detailed employee compensation data, but the Web giant says the agency's demand is too broad and would reveal personal information.  

Labor Google Lawsuit 2

The U.S. Department of Labor has sued Google for allegedly failing to submit compensation information on its employees as required under equal opportunities hiring practices laws.

The lawsuit filed with the Labor Department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges seeks to bar Google from bidding for government contracts until it provides the requested data. The Labor Department complaint also calls on the court to issue an order canceling all of Google’s existing government contracts and subcontracts unless the company complies with its obligations.

The dispute stems from what the Department of Labor described as a routine request for employee compensation data from Google as part of a random audit of the company’s compliance with relevant employment and hiring laws.

The request for the “compensation snapshot” was sent in September 2015 and Google was supposed to have responded with the data by June 2016. The requested information included job and salary history for certain employees including their starting salaries, starting job levels, starting organization within Google and all changes to their jobs and salaries since being hired by the company.

In its complaint, the Labor Department said that as a government contractor Google was obliged to provide the requested information. The company in fact, had voluntarily agreed to provide such information when asked, in exchange for government business, the Labor Department complaint noted.

However in June 2016, Google communicated its decision not to provide the requested information to the government, according to the Labor Department. Despite repeated attempts since then to get Google to comply, it has refused to hand over the information being sought.

“Google’s conduct breaches the contractual obligations it accepted in exchange for obtaining business from the federal government,” Labor Department lawyers said in their complaint. “Unless restrained by an administrative order, Google will continue to violate its obligations” under the relevant statutes, the complaint said.

The lawsuit is something of an embarrassment for Google, which often has found itself ranked among the best companies to work for in the world. The company for instance has been on Fortune’s list of best companies for 10 years, seven of them at the top of the list.

In a statement, the company denied that it was resisting the government's request to turn over the data to the Department of Labor and said that its actions were based on the fact that the requested data was far too broad and intrusive.

“We’re very committed to our affirmative action obligations, and to improving the diversity of our workforce,” the statement said. Google has been a vocal advocate about the importance of such issues and is cognizant of its obligations as a federal government contractor, it added.

In response to the Labor Department’s request, Google has provided hundreds of thousands of records, including compensation data, to the government. The “handful” of records that are the subject of the complaint are “overbroad in scope, or reveal confidential data,” the company said. “These requests include thousands of employees’ private contact information, which we safeguard rigorously.”

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.