Google 'segregated' women into lower-paying jobs, lawsuit claims

Google 'segregated' women into lower-paying jobs, lawsuit claims

Google ‘segregated’ women into lower-paying jobs, despite undertaking ‘substantially similar work’ to male employees, a class action-lawsuit has alleged.

The complaint, filed on behalf of all women employed by Google in California over the last four years, accused the technology company of denying qualified females promotions and career opportunities. It also detailed accounts of gender discrimination and pay disparities.

The lawsuit claims that Google is violating labour laws, for paying women less than men for what is essentially, the same job. The US Department of Labor (DOL) first accused Google of ‘extreme’ pay discrimination in April, as part of a lawsuit seeking to force the company to hand over salary records for a Government audit.

Google has been battling gender discrimination claims for months, despite publicly insisting it has eliminated its gender pay gap and is a leader in the embattled tech industry for inclusion. However, according to Google’s most recent diversity report, female employees make up just 20% of the technical workforce. The case strengthens the claims that outdated stereotypes are present at the firm, after one Google Engineer wrote a blog post attributing biological differences to the shortage of women in tech.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit offered specific anecdotal evidence of Google “assigning and keeping female employees in low compensation levels than male employees with similar skills, experience and duties.”

Kelly Ellis, a former Google employee and a lead plaintiff in the case, told the Guardian: “We’ve been talking about these issues for a long time, and it hasn’t really changed. There’s been a lot of PR and lip service, but ... this is going to be one of the only ways to get these companies to change how they hire and compensate women.”

According to the suit, Ellis was hired in 2010 as a software engineer for Google Photos and was placed into a “Level 3” position typically assigned to new college graduates. The complaint said that several weeks later, Google hired a male software engineer, who graduated the same year as Ellis, into a “Level 4” position on her team. Level 4 engineers “receive substantially higher salary and opportunities for bonuses, raises, and equity”, her lawyers wrote.

According to the suit, Google initially denied Ellis a promotion, despite “excellent performance reviews.” Ellis said she also observed that male software engineers occupied most of the higher-paying “back-end” roles while female software engineers were assigned to “front-end” positions.

The suit said: “Google assigned her [Ellis] to an occupationally-segregated frontend engineering role.” In July 2014, Ellis quit, due to the “sexist culture at Google.”

According to the Guardian, Google did not respond to inquiries about the plaintiffs, but a spokeswoman, Gina Scigliano, said in a statement: “Job levels and promotions are determined through rigorous hiring and promotion committees, and must pass multiple levels of review, including checks to make sure there is no gender bias in these decisions. But on all these topics, if we ever see individual discrepancies or problems, we work to fix them, because Google has always sought to be a great employer, for every one of our employees.”

Ellis also recalled that there was a lack of female role models, which: “made me feel like I could never get to the level where these guys are.” She added that she hopes the suit will encourage other technology firms to take notice. “They have to treat everyone fairly,” she said. “Otherwise, we are going to take action.”

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