Google wins court battle with Labor Department over wage gap data

Xavier Trudeau
Juillet 17, 2017

Google Inc. got a win Friday in its ongoing dispute with the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs over data on pay gaps between men and women at the company.

"We were concerned that these requests went beyond the scope of what was relevant to this specific audit, and posed unnecessary risks to employees' privacy", she wrote.

A judge handed Google a victory in its spat with the US Department of Labor over employee salary data.

A judge on Friday ruled the Labor Department's request for almost two decades of data - including personal information on over 25,000 Google employees - is "unreasonable in that it is over-broad, intrusive on employee privacy, unduly burdensome, and insufficiently focused on obtaining the relevant information".

But Google has been spared from the government's other demands - including a request that it submit contact information for all 21,000 of its employees so that the Labor Department can more fully investigate claims of unequal pay.

The government now has one week to appeal the ruling, following which it will be finalized and Google will provide a more limited set of data.

"Over the previous year, in connection with this audit alone, we've provided more than 329,000 documents and more than 1.7 million data points, including detailed compensation information, in response to [Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs'] 18 different data requests", Naughton wrote in a blog post.

The Labor Department's federal solicitor in San Francisco, Janet Herold, told The Register: "The court's decision vindicates OFCCP's vigorous enforcement of the disclosure and anti-discrimination obligations federal contractors voluntarily accept in exchange for taxpayer funds".

"OFFCP has already collected for 21,114 employees information such as name, date of birth, place of birth, citizenship status, visa status, salary and stock grants", Berlin wrote in his decision. The company's lawyers argued last month the Labor Department might have violated ethics rules by talking to the press about the federal investigation.

"We invest a lot in our efforts to create a fair and inclusive environment for all our employees-across all genders and races", said Eileen Naughton, Google's vice president of People Operations in a blog post. "We are proud of our practices and leadership in this area, and we look forward to working constructively with OFCCP, as we complete this review and in the future".

The provisional order comes at a time of growing scrutiny of sex discrimination, racism, and sexual harassment across the tech industry.

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