A class action-lawsuit was filed on Thursday on behalf of all women who have been employed by Google in California over the course of the last four years that “accus[es] the technology company of denying promotions and career opportunities to qualified women who are “segregated” into lower-paying jobs,” according to The Guardian. The claim is that Google has violated labor laws by paying women much less than men for “substantially similar work.”
The issue of a worryingly wide pay gap at Google has been a concern for some time now, but this lawsuit contains very detailed formal accounts of gender discrimination in action at the company. The group of women who have joined together to speak out is also growing increasingly larger. The outcome of this lawsuit will set a precedent for how major tech companies treat the women they hire.
The male-dominated tech sector is still trying to find its feet again after getting hit with numerous recent complaints about a lack of diversity, sexual harassment and discrimination. This isn’t the first time Google has been under fire for how it pays its employees, either. The US Department of Labor (DoL) made an accusation back in April that the corporation practiced “extreme” pay discrimination. Those accusations arose as a part of a lawsuit that would make Google give up salary records for a government audit.
Lawsuit says Google engineers are segregated into frontend (women) and backend (men)...and the backend engineers are paid & promoted more. pic.twitter.com/pwSGR2a5mi
— Will Evans (@willCIR) September 14, 2017
Google faces an even bigger pile of problems if it ends up losing the lawsuit, considering it just claimed it has completely eliminated the gender pay gap and leads the industry in equality. The company is also already a hot spot for diversity discussions after the company fired a male engineer last month who wrote a memo that disparaged “affirmative action” and claimed white men were the real victims of discrimination in the tech industry.
Kelly Ellis, a former employee and one of the main plaintiffs in the case, was hired in 2010 as a software engineer for Google Photo. She said that when she was hired, she was placed in a “Level 3” position, which is what most recent college graduates enter. Shortly thereafter, a male software engineer who graduated at the same time she did was hired and placed immediately into a “Level 4” job, which had far greater pay and opportunities for promotion. At first, she was just “excited just to be there" and thought little of it. Then, bit by bit, the men around her were promoted and she was way behind all of them by the time she finally received a promotion of her own. She was also assigned to a less prestigious position, despite having extensive experience in the more prestigious positions many of her male coworkers received with ease.
— Nitasha Tiku (@nitashatiku) September 14, 2017
Holly Pease, another plaintiff in the case, was hired by the company in 2005. Despite her more than 10 years of experience as a network engineer, she said she was put in a “non-technical” career track. “Technical” roles offer better pay and more opportunity for advancement than the non-technical track. Pease said she even had to coach men below her for interviews that would allow them to transition to technical jobs and that, when she complained, Google claimed she “lacked technical ability,” despite her background.
Kelly Wisuri, one of the other many plaintiffs, was hired in 2012 and put in one of the lowest levels of employment available to full-time employees. Men with her same qualifications started a full level ahead of her. She also said ended up in a career track that paid less and was populated by at least 50 percent women.
One attorney behind the suit, James Finberg, told the Guardian that the complaints are representative of sexist culture over-all. “We’ve heard from a lot of women about stereotypes and perceptions that women can’t do coding. It’s frustrating and demoralizing," he said.
Google has not responded to the lawsuit, but a spokeswoman has contested the allegations.