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By Chris Opfer
Google Inc.'s pay data dispute with the Labor Department is showing no signs of being resolved after an administrative law judge May 2 declined to dismiss the department’s lawsuit against the company (OFCCP v. Google, Inc., Dep’t of Labor A.L.J., No. 2017-OFC-00004, order denying motion to dismiss 5/2/17).
Labor Department Regional Director Janette Wipper dropped somewhat of a bombshell last month when she told Administrative Law Judge Steven Berlin that the department had already uncovered “systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce” at Google’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. The DOL and Google are embroiled in litigation over whether the company should have to turn over as part of a government contractor audit pay data dating back to its founding and contact information for some 20,000 workers.
The case has drawn wide-ranging attention from federal contracting businesses and their lawyers. Many are hoping Berlin will draw a line in the sand in terms of how much information the DOL can demand in its Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs audits.
Berlin said he wasn’t ready to dismiss the DOL’s lawsuit seeking additional information. Although Wipper said the Labor Department already has evidence of discrimination and Regional Solicitor Janet Herold made similar statements to reporters, the judge found that the investigation was still ongoing.
“We’re pleased the court has determined the OFCCP has made no findings of discrimination in pay and look forward to continuing the hearing on the access demands,” Google spokesman Ty Sheppard told Bloomberg BNA via email. “As we’ve stated before, our analysis gives us confidence there is no gender pay gap at Google.”
Google has repeatedly denied any pay disparity among men and women doing the same jobs for the company, saying that it conducts a rigorous annual analysis to ensure pay equity.
DOL spokesman Jose Carnevali declined Bloomberg BNA’s request for comment.
The DOL has not unveiled any evidence supporting its claim that Google is paying women less than men for the same work.
Wipper told the court about the department’s findings before the DOL lodged any discrimination allegations as a way of justifying its request for more data. She said the department wanted more information to try to determine what was causing the alleged disparities.
The department has shown an interest in particular in Google’s use of applicants’ salary histories to set pay rates. That practice has been criticized by worker advocates who say it could perpetuate previous cases of discrimination.
Berlin said Herold’s comments to reporters “complicated” the situation because they could be interpreted to mean that the DOL was keeping the investigation open to justify the additional information requests. The judge nevertheless said he gave more weight to Wipper’s testimony because she was under oath at the time and is directly involved in the investigation.
Berlin also said Herold didn’t violate California ethics rules by talking to reporters because her statements were not likely to affect the outcome of the case.
To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org
Text of the order denying motion to dismiss is available at http://src.bna.com/ouh.
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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