Google wins court battle with Labor Department over wage gap data


It requested the employee details as part of its investigation, which administrative law judge Steve Berlin denied on grounds of the demands being: "over-broad, intrusive on employee privacy, unduly burdensome and insufficiently focused on obtaining the relevant information".

But the Labor Department nevertheless declared victory, saying the judge's order will give it access to the data it needs to continue investigating "really damning" indications that Google paid women less than men across the entire company.

That allegation came amid a lawsuit - seeking large amounts of detailed employee data - by the department's office for contract compliance, which enforces federal laws over USA government contractors such as Google. Judge Berlin said the agency appears "especially concerned about".

Citing fears about hacking - and recent cyber attacks on the US government - the court instead recommended the agency seek and obtain from Google the telephone numbers and email addresses from up to 5,000 of its workers, provided the company already has that data in its possession. It also wants data going back 15 years so that it can look at every decision that impacted pay.

"As OFCCP's salary history, job history, and related requests exceed even the considerable deference owed OFCCP on a determination of relevance, and as they create an unreasonable burden on Google and its employees, OFCCP will have to do more ... if Google is to be ordered to provide this data", Berlin wrote in the 43-page ruling. So investigators requested the same data from Google for September 1, 2014, along with salary and job histories and contact information for 25,000 employees.

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The defense earned a strong rebuke from the DoL and others in the industry who noted Google has touted its $150m "diversity" efforts and has a almost $28bn annual income as one of the world's wealthiest companies, building some of the most advanced technology.

While the OFCCP will not get additional salary and job history information, the judge wrote it can receive a 2014 snapshot of salary data in addition to contact info for 5,000 names and then an additional 3,000 later on if it wishes. Eileen Naughton, Google vice president of people operations, said in a blog post dated Monday that Google has already provided more than 329,000 documents and more than 1.7 million data points, including detailed compensation information, in response to OFCCP's 18 different data requests.

"While we're pleased with Friday's recommended decision, we remain committed to treating, and paying, people fairly and without bias with regard to factors like gender or race", she continued. He listed a number of concerns, including if the employee data "will be secure from hacking" once transferred, or whether Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) workers will misuse the data or not.

The Labor Department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.