US Labor Department gender equity crusade hits Google roadblock

Google wins battle over employee data

US Labor Department gender equity crusade hits Google roadblock

The judge said that the Dept of Labor had not provided a persuasive reason for the kind of personal data demanded.

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), an agency of the US Labor Department, has been investigating Google's salary records for any signs of gender inequality.

A judge handed Google a victory in its spat with the US Department of Labor over employee salary data.

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.

A judge on Friday ruled the Labor Department's request for almost two decades of data - including personal information on over 25,000 Google employees - is "unreasonable in that it is over-broad, intrusive on employee privacy, unduly burdensome, and insufficiently focused on obtaining the relevant information".

The government agency in January sued Google to compel it to hand over certain compensation data as part of an audit to ensure that the company, a federal contractor, is honoring equal employment laws.

Berlin called the demand for so many workers' contact information "over-broad, intrusive on employee privacy, unduly burdensome, and insufficiently focused on obtaining the relevant information".

Google has repeatedly rejected those allegations, while arguing in court that the Labor Department's requests for data are onerous and would jeopardize the privacy of Google's employees. That information if provided to the government "could ease the efforts of malicious hackers or misdirected government employees", he said.

Nor is Google required to provide salary history and job history for its employees dating back to their hiring. The department would also receive names for a total of 25,000 workers, which the judge noted could be used by Labor Department investigators to track the employees down.

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.

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. "We really wish Google had agreed two years ago to produce this information".

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