Update on the Department of Labor Lawsuit
Editor’s note: On Friday, an administrative law judge for the United States Department of Labor issued a recommended decision and order regarding a demand for extensive data about Google employees made by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor. The decision concluded that the OFCCP demands were “over-broad, intrusive on employee privacy, unduly burdensome and insufficiently focused on obtaining the relevant information.” We asked Eileen Naughton, our VP of People Operations (see her previous post on pay equity) to provide more detail.
You may have read about a wide-ranging audit of Google being performed by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor.
We’ve complied with various past OFCCP audits in connection with federal contracts, and those audits have not resulted in challenges to our practices. Over the last year, in connection with this audit alone, we've 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 ultimately we reached an impasse when OFCCP demanded even more: employees’ compensation and other job information dating back 15 years, as well 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. Despite our repeated efforts to resolve this impasse informally, OFCCP issued a complaint against us demanding access to the information and asserting we had no right to challenge their requests.
On Friday, an administrative law judge for the United States Department of Labor issued a recommended decision and order as to OFCCP’s demand for this data. The decision concluded that the demands were “over-broad, intrusive on employee privacy, unduly burdensome and insufficiently focused on obtaining the relevant information.”
In the course of the litigation around the scope of the audit, an OFCCP witness asserted that there are gender-related disparities in our compensation practices related to salary negotiations. The decision found that: “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 ... is based ... on anything more than speculation.”
Moreover, our own annual analysis shows no gender pay gap at Google. We’ve shared our methodology publicly. And we appreciate the decision’s recognition that our compensation policies and practices are “intricately designed to bring people on the same job with the same job performance rating to the same salary over time." The decision also notes that OFCCP has not taken sufficient steps to learn how our systems work and may not have ”accurately understood” them.
We were also concerned that providing personal contact information for more than 25,000 Google employees could have privacy implications, and the judge agreed, citing the history of government data breaches and recent hacking of Department of Labor data.
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.
We invest a lot in our efforts to create a fair and inclusive environment for all our employees—across all genders and races. The judge acknowledged this, saying: “I would think that the Department would laud government contractors that spend hundreds of millions of dollars on diversity initiatives, not use those voluntary efforts against these companies."
While we're pleased with Friday’s recommended decision, we remain committed to treating, and paying, people fairly and without bias with regard to factors like gender or race. We are proud of our practices and leadership in this area, and we look forward to working constructively with OFCCP, as we complete this review and in the future.