Over ten thousand women are involved in a class action alleging that Alphabet Inc.’s Google pays men more than women for doing the same jobs. In 2011’s Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, the U.S. Supreme Court set the bar high for organizing class actions, making it a challenge to get such actions approved by courts. Nevertheless, a judge in California has approved the class action in this case.
Judge: Class not too broad for a reasonable class-action trial
Google opposed class action status for the pay disparity lawsuit, which seeks over $600 million in damages for the women. The tech giant claims that it has conducted a thorough analysis over the past eight years to ensure its salaries, bonuses and equity awards are non-discriminatory. When it found disparities, it claimed it made upward adjustments affecting 2,352 employees in “nearly every demographic category.”
However, another current lawsuit accuses Google of violating California’s law prohibiting employers from asking job applicants about their salary histories.
Also, in February, Google settled allegations by the U.S. Department of Labor that it underpaid female software engineers and discriminated against both women and Asian job applicants. The company agreed to pay nearly $2.6 million to settle the allegations.
In its opposition to the class action, Google claimed that the class of women proposed was too complex. As many as 33,000 employees could ultimately be affected, many of whom perform different types of work. The company argued that this would require “boundless individual testimony” and would therefore be inappropriate as a class action under the Supreme Court precedent.
Judge Andrew Y.S. Cheng of the California Superior Court for San Francisco County disagreed, finding that “jobs do not need to be identical or require exactly the same duties” to be considered as part of a sensible class.
Class: Google violates California Equal Pay Act at every point
In a July court filing, the women leading the suit against Google presented an analysis by an economist at the University of California – Irvine. That economist found that Google pays women about $16,794 less per year, on average, than similarly situated men.
“Google paid women less base salary, smaller bonuses, and less stock than men in the same job code and location,” reads the filing.
California’s Equal Pay Act is similar to the federal Equal Pay Act, but many experts view it as even more protective of employees.
This is not the first time a large tech company has faced a sex-discrimination class action. Last year, three female workers at Oracle Corp. succeeded in getting a judge to certify a class action against the company over allegations of pay discrimination. However, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes remains an obstacle to class action status. Women engineers at both Microsoft and Twitter failed to achieve class action status in recent gender bias cases.
Do you suspect you may be paid less than your male colleagues? It can be difficult to get concrete information, but the impact of pay discrimination could be major. Before taking any steps, contact an experienced employment law attorney to discuss your strategy.