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Women suing Google over gender bias win class-action status

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The pay disparity lawsuit against Google can now represent almost 11,000 women.
(Matt Rourke / Associated Press)

Four female former employees of Alphabet Inc.’s Google won class-action status to pursue their gender-pay disparity lawsuit against the tech giant on behalf of almost 11,000 other women.

A state judge in San Francisco certified the class action Thursday, allowing the lead plaintiffs to represent 10,800 women over claims that Google pays men more for doing the same job. A previously disclosed analysis showed that the case seeks more than $600 million in damages. The women allege violations of California’s Equal Pay Act, one of the strongest measures of its kind nationwide.

“This is a significant day for women at Google and in the technology sector, and we are so proud of our brave clients for leading the way,” Kelly Dermody, a lawyer representing the women, said in an email. “This order shows that it is critical that companies prioritize paying women equitably over spending money fighting them in litigation.”

Dermody said the next move is to get the case to trial, which she expects could start in 2022.

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Some of us are hoping that a year of remote work will lead to greater job flexibility. Others can’t wait to get out of the house.

The decision follows a similar ruling last year in a case against Oracle Corp. Women at other technology companies who have turned to the courts to rectify their pay and treatment in the workplace have faced difficulty gaining traction, just like their female counterparts in more traditional industries such as retail and finance. The U.S. Supreme Court set a high bar in its 2011 decision that blocked 1.5 million female workers at Walmart Inc. from pursuing their discrimination claims as a group.

Female engineers at both Twitter Inc. and Microsoft Corp. failed to persuade judges to let their gender-bias cases proceed as class actions, and those rulings were upheld on appeal.

In their request for class-action status, the women suing Google said in a July court filing that the company paid female employees approximately $16,800 less per year than “the similarly-situated man,” citing an analysis by David Neumark, an economist at UC Irvine. “Google paid women less base salary, smaller bonuses, and less stock than men in the same job code and location,” they said.

According to the lawsuit, Google also violated the state’s Unfair Competition Law with a policy from 2011 to 2017 of asking job candidates their prior salaries, perpetuating lower pay and seniority for women.

Google representatives didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Google has said the claims in the lawsuit are unfounded. The company’s vice president for People Operations said in July that the company analyzes pay every year to make sure salaries, bonuses and equity awards are fair.

The women sued Google in 2017. The company sought to have the case dismissed, but a judge denied the request in 2018.


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