Oracle Owes $400M to Women, Black, Asian Workers, DOL Says (1)

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By Chris Opfer and Paige Smith

Oracle Corp. shorted women and minority workers $400 million in wages by paying them less than other employees, steering them into jobs at lower-level positions, and imposing an “extreme preference” for immigrant visa holders, the Labor Department said in a new legal filing.

“Oracle has continued to systemically discriminate against employees and applicants based on gender and race,” Labor Department attorney Laura Bremer told an administrative law judge.

The allegations stem from a random 2014 audit by the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. The OFCCP, which enforces equal pay and other nondiscrimination requirements for federal contractors, first sued Oracle in January 2017.

Oracle declined Bloomberg Law’s request for comment. The company does about $100 million a year in federal contracting, according to the department.

Pay records obtained by the Labor Department show that Oracle paid women, black, and Asian employees less than others for similar jobs in information technology, product development, and support. The DOL said that appears to be in part because the company relied on workers’ prior pay histories to determine starting salaries. The department also said Oracle often starts women and black workers at “low-level jobs and low starting pay.”

The DOL further alleges that Oracle uses a recent college graduate hiring program to bring in droves of Asian H-1B visa holders, whom the company then pays less than their citizen counterparts.

Oracle “impermissibly denies equal employment opportunity to non-Asian applicants for employment, strongly preferring a workforce that it can later underpay,” Bremer said in the legal filing. “Once employed, women, blacks, and Asians are systematically underpaid relative to their peers.”

Tech Sector Pay Watchdog

The dispute comes as the relatively obscure OFCCP has stepped up its role as pay sheriff in the tech and financial sectors in recent years. The agency has reached past settlements with technology companies, such as Dell EMC and Palantir, and is engaged in separate ongoing litigation with Google and JPMorgan Chase.

The OFCCP audits about 1 percent to 2 percent of approximately 120,000 contractor locations each year.

Oracle previously pushed back on the DOL’s discrimination allegations, and an ALJ ordered in September 2017 that the Labor Department had to provide additional information to support its findings. Google has also pushed back on the OFCCP’s information discovery techniques in lawsuits.

The probe is also one of several ongoing investigations into possible discrimination by federal contractors involving visa holders. The OFCCP considers preferences for or biases against workers in the country on visas a form of national origin discrimination, banned by an executive order first issued in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson.

OFCCP investigators in 2018 concluded that Cisco Systems Inc.discriminated against U.S. workers by favoring immigrant visa holders for job openings, sources familiar with that probe told Bloomberg Law.

The case is OFCCP v. Oracle, Dep’t of Labor A.L.J., No. 2017-OFC-00006, motion for leave to file second amended complaint 1/22/19.

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