According to the San Francisco County Superior Court in the United States, Google violated the California Equal Pay Act by paying lower wages to women — in addition to violating other state laws. As a result, the company agreed to pay a fine of $118 million (about $603 million at current rates) to settle the class action.
The lawsuit covers about 15,500 women who have worked for Google since 2013, and claims the company paid less to women and more to men in similar roles. In addition, the court also declares that the company has not paid all wages owed.
The settlement will pay $75,000 to one of the main plaintiffs and $50,000 to three others, however, the $118 million amount is expected to drop to $86 million after removing attorney fees and other discounts.
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“In addition to monetary relief, the settlement provides for an independent third-party expert to review Google’s hiring leveling practices and for an independent labor economist to review Google’s pay equity studies,” the law firm initiating the lawsuit said.
In a statement sent to Ars Technica , Google says it believes in the fairness of its policies and, therefore, agreed to the resolution of the matter by accepting the agreement. The company says it is committed to paying, hiring and leveling all employees fairly and equitably.
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“If we find differences in proposed salaries, including between men and women, we will make upward adjustments to remove them before the new pay takes effect, and we will continue to do so. In 2020 alone, we made adjustments to 2,352 employees, across nearly all demographic categories, totaling $4.4 million,” Google told Ars Technica .
Google has agreed to pay $118 million to settle a class action gender discrimination lawsuit involving 15,500 women who have worked for the search giant since 2013, the law firms representing the plaintiffs said in a statement Saturday.
The settlement ends a 2017 lawsuit, Ellis v. Google, filed in San Francisco Superior Court by former Google employees who accused the company of violating California’s Equal Pay Act. The women said Google underpaid female workers, placed them in lower-level jobs and denied them promotions and transitions to other teams.
The settlement also requires independent third-party experts to analyze Google’s hiring practices and pay equity studies.
“As a woman who’s spent her entire career in the tech industry, I’m optimistic that the actions Google has agreed to take as part of this settlement will ensure more equity for women,” Holly Pease, one of the four named plaintiffs, said in the statement. “Google, since its founding, has led the tech industry. They also have an opportunity to lead the charge to ensure inclusion and equity for women in tech.” Pease worked at Google for over 10 years in several technical leadership positions.
Google didn’t acknowledge any wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
“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,” a Google spokesperson told CNET. The spokesperson added that Google is committed to paying, hiring and leveling all employees equally.
The terms of the settlement still need to be approved by a judge. A hearing on a preliminary approval is scheduled for June 21.
Google has long grappled with allegations of gender and pay discrimination. Last year, the tech giant settled a lawsuit claiming that it underpaid women engineers and overlooked Asian job applicants for nearly $2.6 million. The company was also sued in March for allegedly maintaining a “racially biased corporate culture” that discriminates against Black employees and favors white men.