Three Female Ex-Employees Sue Google Claiming Wage Discrimination

A lawsuit filed by three former employees claims Google is systematically and knowingly paying women employees less than comparable male workers. Google says allegations are untrue.

Google Diversity Issue

Three female Google ex-employees have filed a pay discrimination lawsuit against the company.

The complaint, filed in the Superior Court of California in San Francisco Thursday accused Google of systematically and knowingly paying women lower wages and compensating them less overall than male employees with substantially similar skills and experience.

The three ex employees who filed the lawsuit are: Kelly Ellis, who worked as a software engineer at Google between 2010 and 2014; Holly Pease who left Google in 2016 as a senior manager of business system integration; and Kelli Wisuri, a brand evangelist for the company between 2012 and 2015.

The women said they were bringing the case on behalf of the "several thousands" of female employees that Google has employed in California over the past four years.

The lawsuit refers to a review of Google's compensation data that the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) randomly conducted in September 2015.

The OFCCP's regression analysis of data for all 21,000 employees at Google's Mountain View headquarters showed six to seven standard deviations in pay for men and women across nearly every job classification, the lawsuit alleged. Even two standard deviations are considered significant. Thus a standard deviation of six or seven suggests the disparities are not the result of random chance.

One of the complaints is that Google puts women in job ladders and levels with lower compensation ceilings and advancement opportunities. Technical job ladders for instance have more generous salaries and compensation bands compared to non-technical job ladders.

But Google has "channeled and segregated" women on the basis of their sex to job paths that are less compensated and offer fewer opportunities for upward mobility, the women said citing from their own experiences at Google.

The complaint alleges that Google generally promotes fewer women and takes longer to promote them than similarly situated male employees with the same skills and job experience.

The class action compliant described Google's behavior as willful and systematic discrimination against women. This is an issue that the company should have known about based on the pay equity analyses it conducts every year, the complaint asserts.

In a statement, Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano said the company is reviewing the lawsuit, but disagrees with its central allegations. "We work really hard to create a great workplace for everyone, and to give everyone the chance to thrive here," she noted.

Promotions and job levels at Google are determined by rigorous committee analysis and have to pass through multiple checks and reviews to ensure there is no gender bias, Scigliano said.

"We have extensive systems in place to ensure that we pay fairly." Any time there are individual discrepancies and problem, Google has worked to fix them, the spokeswoman said.

Whatever the merits of the most recent complaints, the lawsuit once again has focused attention on Google's alleged discriminatory compensation practices against women.  Earlier this year, an official at the Labor Department had described the extent of wage discrimination against women at Google as extreme even by technology industry standards.

The comments stemmed from the OFCCP compliance review that Ellis, Pease and Wisuri quoted in their complaint this week. The Labor Department had conducted the Google review as part of random audits it conducts of organizations that sell products and services to the federal government.

After the initial review the Labor Department asked Google for more compensation data, this time dating back to 2014. The agency says it is trying to find out if the wage gap it discovered during its first analysis is part of a broader pattern of discrimination against women at Google.

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.