Google has agreed to pay $118 million to resolve a class action lawsuit for gender discrimination involving about 15,500 women. According to the press release released along with the agreement, the Mountain View-based company will also have an independent labor economist evaluate its hiring practices and pay equity studies.
The lawsuit first surfaced in 2017, when three women filed a complaint accusing the company of insufficiently paying female employees, in violation of California’s Equal Pay Act, citing a wage inequality of about $17,000. According to this legislation, in the updated version as of January 1, 2019, employers cannot justify any disparity in pay between employees of the opposite sex or of different race or ethnicity, based on the previous salary of an employee. As stated on the California government’s Department of Corporate Relations website, “Equal pay law prohibits an employer from paying its employees lower wages than those of employees of the opposite sex, race, or other ethnicity for substantially similar work, when considered as a set of skills, effort, and responsibilities, and carried out under similar operating conditions.”
The complaint against Google alleges that the company has forced women to occupy lower-level positions, resulting in lower wages and bonuses than their male counterparts. Last year, plaintiffs were granted class action status, i.e. collective legal action conducted by members of a given category demanding that an issue be resolved with ultra partes effects for all present and future components of the category itself.
But this is hardly the first case the California-based company has to unravel: Google’s employee management has been questioned more than once and on multiple fronts. In 2021, for example, he agreed to pay $2.5 million to resolve a complaint stating that the company underpaid female engineers and ignored Asian hiring applications. if that’s not discrimination!
Meanwhile, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is also reviewing allegations of possible harassment and discrimination against the company’s black employees.
Google said in a statement that: “Although we firmly believe in the fairness of our policies and practices, after nearly five years of litigation, both sides agreed that resolving the matter, without any admission or finding, was in everyone’s interest and we are very pleased to have reached this agreement.” In short, it almost seems that paying 118 million dollars – pennies for a company that, last year alone, had a turnover of 257.6 billion – was not so much the right solution (without admission or observation, in the sense: let’s not admit we were wrong, we prefer to pay immediately) as fast as to close the issue that for almost 5 years had tarnished
In addition, the company said it is absolutely committed to paying, hiring and framing all employees fairly and fairly, and making “upward adjustments” if a pay disparity between male and female employees is discovered. But you know, between words and deeds there is a distance that can only be bridged by concrete evidence. So we just have to see it.