Google agrees to pay US$163 million to settle pay equity suit

The Google settlement involves women in 236 different job titles. PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO (BLOOMBERG) - Alphabet Inc's Google agreed to pay US$118 million (S$163.3 million) to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit with about 15,500 female employees, lawfirms representing the women said in a statement.

In addition, an independent expert will analyse Google's hiring practices and an independent labour economist will review the company's pay equity studies, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP and Altshuler Berzon LLP said in the statement on Friday (June 10). The settlement couldn't be confirmed on the court docket.

"As a woman who's spent her entire career in the tech industry, I'm optimistic that the actions Google has agreed to take as part of this settlement will ensure more equity for women," Holly Pease, one of the plaintiffs, said in the statement.

The settlement was reached on the same day a judge in another long-running Silicon Valley pay bias case - involving Oracle Corp. - tentatively decertified its class action status, ruling that it would be unmanageable to proceed to trial with a class of more than 3,000 employees in 125 different job classifications suing.

The Google settlement involves women in 236 different job titles, according to the law firms. Similar lawsuits against Twitter and Microsoft have failed to gain class-action status.

The Google deal must be approved by a judge. A hearing on a preliminary approval is scheduled for June 21, the law firms said.

The women leading the Google suit said in a court filing that the company paid female employees approximately US$16,794 less per year than a "the similarly situated man", citing an analysis by David Neumark, an economist at University of California at Irvine.

The case is Ellis v. Google LLC, No. CGC-17-561299, San Francisco Superior Court.

In the Oracle case, if Friday's ruling stands, it would take away critical leverage the women previously won after they were granted class-status in 2020 in their case filed under the state’s Equal Pay Act.

The suit was filed in 2017 by a former company engineer and two other women, all of whom worked at PeopleSoft Corp before it was acquired by Oracle in 2005. 

San Mateo County Superior Court Judge V. Raymond Swope, who tentatively granted Oracle’s request to decertify the class, set a hearing on the matter for June 13 in Redwood City. 

Before the 2020 ruling, Oracle argued that the lawsuit wrongly compares women and men tagged with the same job codes even though such coding doesn’t mean the work requires similar skills, effort or responsibility, because Oracle’s products and services vary so widely.

Jim Finberg, an attorney representing the women, said he plans to persuade the judge to change his tentative ruling. If that doesn’t work, “it is fair to say that, at some point, we will appeal the decision," he said.

An Oracle spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is Jewett v. Oracle America Inc., 17-CIV-02669, California Superior Court, County of San Mateo (Redwood City)

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