Lawsuit Claims Google Promotes Men, ‘Segregates’ Women

The class-action lawsuit says the tech giant has a long history of mass discrimination against female employees when it comes to pay and opportunities.

On Thursday, a class-action lawsuit claiming Google's female employees who do the same work as men are being paid less than their male counterparts was filed in San Francisco.

According to the suit’s documents, the tech giant often “segregates” women into lower-paying jobs, denying them promotions while offering male employees more opportunities.

The complaint follows other reports of criticism echoing concerns raised by women who have worked for the company and who are now talking about their own experiences in the open.

Unfortunately for Silicon Valley as a whole, there have been several complaints regarding lack of diversity in the workplace not only at Google, but at other companies as well.

Others, like Uber, have been accused of sexual harassment, and even discrimination in the case of automatic car maker Tesla.  

In April, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) filed complaints to force Google to release its records after accusing the organization of “extreme” pay discrimination.

“We’ve been talking about these issues for a long time, and it hasn’t really changed,” former Google employee Kelly Ellis said. “There’s been a lot of PR and lip service, but ... this is going to be one of the only ways to get these companies to change how they hire and compensate women.”

Ellis is one of the three lead plaintiffs in the recently-filed lawsuit.

Within the complaint’s documents, lawyers added several stories showing how Google assigns and keeps “female employees in lower compensation levels than male employees with similar skills, experience, and duties.”

In Ellis’ case, she claims she was hired in 2010 as a software engineer and placed in a “Level 3” position, which is usually assigned to individuals who recently graduated college. Within just a few weeks, a male software engineer who had graduated the same year as Ellis was also hired but placed in a “Level 4” position, giving him access to “substantially higher salary and opportunities for bonuses, raises, and equity,” the suit goes on to add.

While she “wanted to give Google the benefit of the doubt,” she said, others who were either on the same level as her or even less qualified were quickly promoted to Level 4 while Ellis, who had “excellent performance reviews,” was denied a promotion at first. Once she was finally promoted, the suit alleges, she was far behind her male colleagues because they had been given better opportunities ahead of her.  

Finally in July 2014, Ellis quit, saying she just couldn’t handle the “sexist culture at Google” any longer.

James Finberg, one of the civil rights attorneys behind the suit, said that over 90 women had contacted him to share their experiences as Google employees.

“We’ve heard from a lot of women about stereotypes and perceptions that women can’t do coding,” he told reporters. “It’s frustrating and demoralizing.”

This lawsuit could end up pressuring Google to make major changes depending on how the complaints are reviewed and what judges will have to say once all facts are presented.

Since Google continues to insist it has closed the gender pay gap globally, this lawsuit could end up proving that the company has yet a long way to go before actually living up to that claim.

Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Erin Siegal

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