Judge sides with Google in its battle with the Labor Department over employee pay data


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.

The decision by Judge Steven Berlin said that a demand for data
about Google employees made by the Office of Federal Contract
Compliance Programs (OFCCP), a Department of Labor agency, is
“over-broad, intrusive on employee privacy, unduly burdensome,
and insufficiently focused on obtaining the relevant
information.”

The request was made in September 2015 as part of an audit by
the OFCCP (Google is a federal contractor, so it is required to
let the government review data that is relevant to its
compliance with equal employment laws). Google did not comply
and in an attempt to force it to release the data, the
Department of Labor
filed a lawsuit
against the tech giant at the end of last
year.

During the litigation, as the OFCCP and Google battled over
just how much data the company was compelled to hand over, a
Department of Labor witness claimed that there are “systemic”
gender-related disparities in compensation practices related to
salary negotiations.

In April, Department of Labor Regional Director Janette Wipper

testified
that “we found systemic compensation disparities
against women pretty much across the entire workforce.”

Berlin wrote in his decision that the OFCCP was unable to prove
that claim: “Despite having several investigators interview
more than 20 Google executives and managers over two days and
having reviewed over a million compensation-related data points
and many hundreds of thousands of documents, OFCCP offered
nothing credible or reliable to show that its theory about
negotiating starting salaries is based in the Google context on
anything more than speculation.”

In a blog post, Eileen Naughton, vice president of people
operations at Google,
said that Google has complied with past OFCCP audits
. For
this particular one, the company “provided more than 329,000
documents and more than 1.7 million data points, including
detailed compensation information, in response to OFCCP’s 18
different data requests.”

But Google “reached an impasse” when the OFCPP asked for 15
years of employee compensation and other job information, as
well as what Naughton describes as “extensive personal employee
data and contact information for more than 25,000 employees.”

“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.

If the Department of Labor doesn’t file an appeal and Berlin’s
recommendation is finalized, Naughton said Google will comply
with the rest of the order and provide “the more limited data
set” approved by the judge, which includes contact information
for up to 8,000 employees.


Featured Image:
David Martín
/Flickr UNDER A CC BY-SA
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