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The government accused Google of "quite extreme" gender discrimination

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
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Google is facing an intensive investigation from the Department of Labor over alleged pay discrimination. A Labor Department official made news on Friday when she testified in court that “we found systemic compensation disparities against women” at the search giant.

In a follow-up comment to the Guardian, another Labor Department spokesperson stated that “the government’s analysis at this point indicates that discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme.”

But in a Tuesday blog post, Google HR executive Eileen Naughton denied these charges, arguing that the company had rigorous statistical tests in place to ensure that men and women in comparable positions received equal pay.

Unfortunately, the Department of Labor hasn’t released data substantiating its charges of pay discrimination at Google, so it’s hard to say who’s right here. The department is currently seeking additional information from Google to better understand its pay practices, and the company has resisted handing over the information.

That led to Friday’s court hearing, in which a San Francisco federal judge will have to decide whether to order Google to hand over additional information about its workforce and pay practices.

Google was subject to routine scrutiny as a federal contractor

To become a federal contractor, companies must agree to allow the Labor Department to audit their employment practice for compliance with federal nondiscrimination law. Google has long supplied IT services to federal agencies, so it is subject to these rules.

Each year, the Labor Department selects a number of federal contractors for routine examinations. As the Guardian’s Sam Levin explained, Google is far from the only company to face accusations of pay discrimination from the Labor Department.

In the past year, the Labor Department has sued two other Silicon Valley companies — Palantir and Oracle — for unequal pay practices. The Palantir lawsuit alleged that the company had systematically discriminated against Asian applicants — in one case, according to TechCrunch, it “hired 14 non-Asian applicants and 11 Asian applicants from a pool of more than 1,160 qualified people, 85 percent of whom were Asian.”

The Oracle lawsuit, in contrast, charged that Oracle had discriminated in favor of Asian applicants, hiring them at higher rates, while paying other minority groups less than comparable white applicants. The company also allegedly discriminated against women.

The Labor Department may eventually file a similar lawsuit against Google laying out its evidence of discrimination at the Mountain View company. But so far, all we have is Labor’s accusations.

Disclosure: My brother works at Google.

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