Revolt brews as Google faces up to 60 lawsuits over sexism and pay gap

9 Aug 2017

Google’s headquarters at Mountain View, California. Image: Uladzik Kryhin/Shutterstock

Revolt is brewing at Google as 60 current and former staff members are now looking to sue the company in the wake of the scandal over James Damore’s memo.

After being thrown into the centre of a pay gap scandal and wider debate about the continuing lack of diversity in tech, Google has taken action and fired employee James Damore for writing his now infamous 10-page manifesto.

However, this hasn’t prevented any further damage as The Guardian reports that as many as 60 former and current Google staff are looking to bring legal action against the company, claiming that women were and still are paid less than men, despite having greater qualifications.

Hostile culture

While Google has remained steadfast that it does not orchestrate a culture of sexism or intentionally pay women less than men, the lawyer seeking to represent the plaintiffs said that based on their testimony so far, a major disparity is apparent.

Civil rights attorney James Finberg said that several of the women claimed they earn up to $40,000 less than their male counterparts and that “the big initial disparity turns into a larger and larger disparity every year” as a result of men getting better salary and stock options.

Many of the women looking to file the lawsuits claimed that Google, as a company, proliferates a “culture hostile to women” that has prevented them from furthering their careers.

One manager at Google, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Guardian she felt the company culture was “demoralising” and that “it takes emotional energy that builds over time”.

In one instance, she described seeing a new male recruit being hired with a greater salary than hers, despite her having a higher-position job.

Google responds

In response, a Google spokesperson has described the figure of 60 as a “really small sample size”, adding that “there are always going to be differences in salary based on location, role and performance, but the process is blind to gender”.

This comes just a few hours after Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai issued a letter to employees saying that while “much of what was in that memo is fair to debate”, the suggestion that women are inferior to men biologically was offensive.

“Our co-workers shouldn’t have to worry that each time they open their mouths to speak in a meeting, they have to prove that they are not like the memo states, being ‘agreeable’ rather than ‘assertive’, showing a ‘lower stress tolerance’, or being ‘neurotic’.”

Following his dismissal by Google for the memo, Damore is reportedly “exploring all possible legal remedies”, telling Wired that he was fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes”.

He also said that he has filed a complaint with the US’s National Labor Relations Board over his dismissal.

Google’s headquarters at Mountain View, California. Image: Uladzik Kryhin/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic