A class-action lawsuit filed by three former Google employees alleges that the search giant pays women less than men for similar work, and segregates them into front-end (women) or back-end (men) jobs with different pay ceilings. Combined, these factors are said to limit women's ability to move up the corporate ladder at Google, or even simply to receive the same level of compensation as their male counterparts.
The employees' attorneys set up a website devoted to this lawsuit. On it, they summarized the complaint filed in San Francisco on Thursday:
The lawsuit alleges a continuing policy, pattern, and practice on the part of Google of sex discrimination against female employees, with respect to performance evaluations, pay, promotions, and other terms and conditions of employment. The complaint notes that the net result of this systemic discrimination is that Google pays women less than men for comparable work.
Those practices would violate California laws concerning gender-based discrimination. They would also undermine claims that Google specifically, and Silicon Valley generally, is a strict meritocracy. Instead, it would seem that the tech industry carries the torch of misogynistic policies kindled by many other industries before it. (All of this, of course, is assuming that the allegations are accurate. That's up to a judge and potentially a jury to decide.)
This isn't the first time someone has complained about gender discrimination at Google. The U.S. Department of Labor is currently investigating the company's pay practices as a result of a routine audit that started in 2015. Google originally supported the Department of Labor's efforts, but as the department requested more information, the company stopped cooperating. Now the two are waging a public relations battle.
In a series of tweets, one of the former employees filing the lawsuit, Kelly Ellis, said that although the lawsuit is about gender discrimination, it "isn't just about women" and is "not just about Google." Her goal for the lawsuit is not just to make Google change its pay practices; instead, she said she wants "to force not only Google, but other companies to change their practices and compensate EVERYONE fairly." (Emphasis hers.)
You can read the full lawsuit here. It was filed in the San Francisco Superior Court on Thursday, and its filers want the case to head to a jury trial. We expect to hear more about this lawsuit in the future as Google and the tech industry at large grapple with allegations of wage discrimination, regardless of its cause. In the meantime, Google is denying these allegations, as the company told Bloomberg:
“Job levels and promotions are determined through rigorous hiring and promotion committees, and must pass multiple levels of review, including checks to make sure there is no gender bias in these decisions,” company spokeswoman Gina Scigliano said in an e-mailed statement. “And we have extensive systems in place to ensure that we pay fairly.”