clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Google claims its pay model prevents salary discrimination

The Department of Labor has accused the company of “systemic compensation disparities.”

2014 Matrix Awards - Inside
Eileen Naughton
Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Google continues to defend itself against U.S. Department of Labor accusations that it underpays women. The latest: A new blog post saying it has a rigorous process in place to ensure employees are paid equitably regardless of gender.

The Department of Labor sued Google, a government contractor, in January to release salary data and documents that the company has refused to provide. In court in San Francisco last Friday (April 7), the DoL said women at Google face “systemic compensation disparities.”

Google was “quite surprised” by the accusation, writes Google VP of people operations Eileen Naughton, who is responsible for human relations operations. “Our analysis gives us confidence that there is no gender pay gap at Google. In fact, we recently expanded the analysis to cover race in the U.S.,” she said.

Google said in a statement last week that the DoL’s comment was “unfounded” and that “the DoL hasn’t provided any data, or shared its methodology.” Which is an interesting criticism for Google to make, because the DoL’s accusation came out in a hearing for a lawsuit in which the department is asking Google for data that would either prove or disprove the claim.

Naughton said the company’s annual process for determining compensation starts with suggested compensation for each employee that’s based on an employee’s role, seniority, the campus at which they work and their performance. Managers have “limited discretion” to adjust employees’ salaries “providing they cite a legitimate adjustment rationale.”

“This suggested amount is ‘blind’ to gender; the analysts who calculate the suggested amounts do not have access to employees’ gender data,” said Naughton.

Is that whole process really blind to demographics like gender and race when it comes to performance metrics and possible adjustments by managers? Maybe we’ll find out in court.

Historically, Google employees have disputed whether pay is equitable. In 2015, Google engineer Erica Baker, now with Slack, created a spreadsheet where employees compared their salaries. She said the spreadsheet revealed “not great things” about pay at Google.

“We found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce,” DoL regional director Janette Wipper was quoted by the Guardian as saying in court in San Francisco last Friday.

In follow-up after court proceedings, the department told the Guardian, “The government’s analysis at this point indicates that discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry.”

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.