Google has finally settled its Labor Department discrimination suit


The final figure for Google's settlement.

U.S. Department of Labor

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After years of back and forth with the U.S. Labor Department, Google has agreed to pay more than $3.8 million to settle a case of discrimination in its hiring and pay practices. Those funds will go directly to Google employees, past and present, who found themselves on the short end of the company’s unbalanced remuneration policies.

“Pay discrimination remains a systemic problem,” said Jenny R. Yang, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance’s program director. “Employers must conduct regular pay equity audits to ensure that their compensation systems promote equal opportunity.”

The pay discrepancies and hiring rate differences were actually discovered during a routine compliance evaluation carried out by the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Compliance Programs. Pay disparities across gender lines in Google’s software engineering positions were found in the company’s Mountain View, Kirkland, and Seattle offices; hiring rate differences were found in San Francisco, Sunnyvale, and Kirkland offices.

Going to real, breathing people — Unlike many high-level settlements, the money agreed upon in this one will actually benefit those harmed by Google’s discriminatory practices.

Under the terms of the Labor Department’s settlement, approximately $1.35 million will go to 2,565 women engineers, while another $1.23 million will go to 1,757 women and 1,219 Asian applicants for software engineering positions who weren’t hired.

The remaining $1.25 million will be allocated for pay-equity adjustments for the next five years. If any year’s pay adjustments are less than $250,000, Google will utilize the remaining funds for its diversity and inclusion programs.

Is backpay enough? — Google is chalking up both the pay discrepancies and the hiring differences to a mistake. “We believe everyone should be paid based upon the work they do, not who they are, and invest heavily to make our hiring and compensation processes fair and unbiased,” a Google spokesperson said. “For the past eight years, we have run annual internal pay equity analysis to identify and address any discrepancies.”

But if this was a simple oversight problem — one that Google has since been made aware of — then there’s no reason the company should find itself the subject of any similar scandals, right? Lo and behold: just two months ago the National Labor Relations Board filed an official complaint against Google for illegally surveilling and subsequently firing its workers. So there’s that.

And as if discriminatory hiring and pay practices weren’t enough, we’ve also heard some incredibly damning stories about racism and general xenophobia at Google’s offices. Discrimination, it seems, runs quite deep in Google’s workplace culture. Further fines may be needed to properly expel it.