Google has agreed to pay $118 million to settle a class action gender discrimination lawsuit in which female employees argued they were paid less than men in the same roles.
The settlement covers approximately 15,500 female employees in 236 job titles in California since September 14, 2013, law firms Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein said in a statement.
Court documents showed Google was alleged to have paid women in covered positions less than it paid men for substantially similar work, that Google assigned women to lower levels than it assigned men, and that Google failed to pay all wages due to employees upon their separation of employment.
Google told AFP that "while we strongly believe in the equity of our policies and practices, after nearly five years of litigation, both sides agreed that resolution of the matter, without any admission or findings, was in the best interest of everyone, and we're very pleased to reach this agreement".
In addition to the monetary payout, an independent third-party expert will analyse Google’s levelling-at-hire practices and an independent labour economist will review Google’s pay equity studies.
"The lawsuit challenged Google’s pay and levelling processes, and the Plaintiffs believe these programmes will help ensure that women are not paid less than their male counterparts who perform substantially similar work, and that Google’s challenged levelling practices are equitable," Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein said.
The four women — Kelly Ellis, a software engineer, Holly Pease, who held numerous technical leadership roles, Kelli Wisuri, who held various roles including Google Brand Evangelist, and Heidi Lamar, a preschool teacher and infant/toddler teacher at Google’s Children Centre — sued Google in 2017. The company sought to dismiss the case but a judge denied the request in 2018.
An initial court filing stated that The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programme opened a compliance audit on the Mountain View headquarters of Google in September 2015.
It studied data for all approximately 21,000 employees and “found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce".
Google would routinely ask for applicants’ prior salaries and use them to determine employees’ assigned pay levels, which would assign "women to salary levels below the work that they actually perform", the filing stated.