Google wins court battle with Labor Department over wage gap data

17 Juillet, 2017, 22:01 | Author: Marc Bacque
  • Eileen Naughton Google’s VP for People Operations    
   Cindy Ord  Getty

But Google has been spared from the government's other demands - including a request that it submit contact information for all 21,000 of its employees so that the Labor Department can more fully investigate claims of unequal pay.

Noting recent data breaches in U.S. Office of Personnel Management and during the U.S. presidential election, plus a recent ransomware attack at the Labor Department, the judge said that "the federal government generally and the Department of Labor in particular are not immune to hacking or to the improper release ('leaking') of confidential, private materials about people involved in departmental investigations".

Privacy concern is the main reason for the Judge's ruling.

Citing fears about hacking - and recent cyber attacks on the US government - the court instead recommended the agency seek and obtain from Google the telephone numbers and email addresses from up to 5,000 of its workers, provided the company already has that data in its possession.

On Friday, an administrative law judge handed Google a victory, ruling that it does not need to hand over all the data requested by the Department of Labor as part of an audit of the company's compliance with equal pay laws.

"We were concerned that these requests went beyond the scope of what was relevant to this specific audit, and posed unnecessary risks to employees' privacy", Naughton said.

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While the OFCCP will not get additional salary and job history information, the judge wrote it can receive a 2014 snapshot of salary data in addition to contact info for 5,000 names and then an additional 3,000 later on if it wishes. That information if provided to the government "could ease the efforts of malicious hackers or misdirected government employees", he said.

The agency was looking for personal information of employees who have worked with Google in the past 15 years.

In a blog post Sunday, Google's VP of People Operations, Eileen Naughton, reiterated that Google's internal analysis "shows no gender pay gap" (methodology here) and the company has already provided over 329,000 documents and 1.7 million-plus data points as part of the investigation. It has also interviewed 20 or so Google executives and managers.

"Assuming the recommended decision becomes final, we'll comply with the remainder of the order, and provide the much more limited data set of information the judge approved, including the contact information for a smaller sample of up to 8,000 employees", she wrote.

"The anecdotal experience of men and women working at Google is obviously really relevant, and that's where we're going with the next phase of the investigation".

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