Google Fined $5 Million in Settlement Over Alleged Hiring and Pay Discrimination

Google Fined $5 Million in Settlement Over Alleged Hiring and Pay Discrimination
Photo: Amy Osborne, Getty Images

After a drawn-out battle, the U.S. Department of Labour’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has finally settled with Google, which will now pay out or set aside $US3.8 ($5) million to remedy allegations it discriminated against over 5,000 woman and Asian engineers. Over $US2.5 ($3) million of that will go directly to the workers. It’s a nice headline, but it’ll take at least a few more zeros for Google to feel enough pain to change its ways.

In the settlement, the DoL says that it found that Google paid woman software engineers less than their male counterparts, and that Google was less likely to hire women and Asian candidates. Speaking about the case back in 2017, DoL regional solicitor Janet Herold told the Guardian that the agency had found evidence that Google’s discrimination against women was “quite extreme,” even for the tech industry. (The Guardian subsequently reported that Google had tried to get the case thrown out because Herold spoke to the paper.)

The cost breaks down like this: $US1.3 ($2) million in back pay to woman engineers who were subject to pay discrimination; $US1.2 ($2) million to woman and Asian applicants who weren’t hired; and $US1.25 ($2) million set aside to create pay equity.

The settlement unfortunately does not contain any hard data for us to point to on the severity of the discrimination. But there’s a useful analogue in an ongoing gender discrimination lawsuit brought by four former employees against Google. The plaintiffs in that case commissioned a pay analysis from University of California Irvine economics professor David Neumark, which found that between 2014 and 2018 women across the entire company made on average $US16,794 ($22,160) less per year than men — and $US1,900 ($2,507) less on average than men in identical “job codes.” (The complaint states that Google had based employee pay on salary at their previous jobs, which allegedly perpetuated this systemic wage gap.) The plaintiffs have asked the court to approve class-action status to include 10,000 women.

Last year, Google’s vice president of people operations Eileen Naughton told Bloomberg that the allegations in the suit are “unfounded” and that Google regularly analyses and corrects gender-based pay disparities. Apparently, the DoL doesn’t agree.

Googlers have long recounted instances of internal racial discrimination, and as of June 2020 white people made up the majority of company leadership. In a June 2020 letter, Google CEO Sundar Pichai pledged that the company would work on improving racial diversity on the executive level, and added a “talent liaison” to each sector of the company to hire and retain more members of “underrepresented groups.”

In an email to Gizmodo, the Department of Labour declined to comment further. Gizmodo has reached out to Google and will update the post if we hear back.