California judge dismisses class action over Google gender wage gap

7 Dec 2017

Google’s California base at Mountain View was at the centre of legal proceedings. Image: Google

A Google class-action lawsuit is one of many recent instances of tech firms being called out for gender discrimination.

It has been a tumultuous time for the tech industry and the world at large lately, as discrimination and harassment of women has taken centre stage. Google is one of many companies dealing with the fallout.

After the infamous memo from ex-Googler James Damore, outrage across the company and media saw a group of women – Kelly Ellis, Holly Pease and Kelli Wisuri – filing a class-action lawsuit in September against Google, citing discrimination in terms of pay and a lack of career advancement opportunities.

Reuters reported that a San Francisco superior court judge, Mary Wiss, yesterday (6 December) said the lawsuit was “inappropriate as it was brought on behalf of all of the women who worked for Google in the state of California”.

The judge said that two of the three women could not show they had performed comparable work to men who were allegedly earning more money.

Wiss did however allow 30 days for plaintiffs to file a separate complaint on behalf of the women in Google who believe to have been subject to discriminatory pay practices.

It’s not over for Google yet

Google is still facing an investigation into its pay practices from the US Department of Labor.

The lawyer for the three women who initially sued Google in September, James Finberg, said he would file a new complaint by early January of 2018, which would make clear that the company is in violation of the California Equal Pay Act “by paying women less than men for substantially equal work in nearly every job classification”.

The plaintiffs who filed the original lawsuit are a former communications specialist, manager and software engineer.

The three women argued that Google pays women less in California than men who perform similar work, and funnels female employees into roles that are less likely to lead to upward progression in the company.

In September, Ellis expressed her frustration at what she viewed as an unhelpful system. She was kept in an entry-level position for four years and was allegedly denied promotions.

“There’s no official way to appeal that and I didn’t really see women talking about these issues as a systemic thing,” Ellis said.

Google spokesperson Gina Scigliano said the company works “to create a great workplace for everyone”.

Google is not alone in dealing with allegations of gender discrimination. A study released earlier this year demonstrated that the pay gap actually worsens over time for women, with black women feeling the most negative effect from this systemic problem.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects