A class action filed Thursday against Google Inc. claims the tech company systemically pays women less than men in similar jobs and also enables unequal promotions and opportunities for male and female workers.
The sex discrimination case filed in San Francisco Superior Court, Ellis v. Google, accuses the Mountain View, California, company of paying women at all levels less than men in comparable positions, assigning women lower-tier jobs with lower pay and compensation than men and promoting women less frequently. The lawsuit also claims Google failed to correct these issues even after being made aware of them.
“While Google has been an industry-leading tech innovator, its treatment of female employees has not entered the 21st century,” said Kelly Dermody of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, who was among the lawyers who filed the case. “This case seeks to ensure fairness for women at Google.”
The purported class of former and current employees is represented by Altshuler Berzon and Lieff Cabraser. The suit was filed on behalf of three women.
Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano said in a statement that the company disagrees with the central allegations in the complaint, but the company will review the lawsuit. The company’s statement said, in part, that job levels and promotions are determined through a “rigorous” process, which includes hiring and promotion committees and multiple levels of review.
“And we have extensive systems in place to ensure that we pay fairly,” Scigliano said in the statement. “But on all these topics, if we ever see individual discrepancies or problems, we work to fix them, because Google has always sought to be a great employer, for every one of our employees.”
This lawsuit puts a new spotlight on Google over claims the company hasn’t done enough to boost gender diversity. The U.S. Labor Department has an ongoing investigation of Google, alleging gender disparities in pay at the company. Initial findings revealed alleged pay discrimination among the 21,000 employees at the company’s headquarters at every level. Google has disputed these findings.
Google also recently fought with the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs over disclosure of salary records—a battle that Google won in part.
The lawsuit also follows the release of a memo written by a Google engineer who claimed on the internal document that, among other things, women were not biologically suitable for work in the technology industry and decried Google’s efforts to level the playing field. The engineer James Damore was fired after the memo was made public and went viral.
Damore recently hired Harmeet Dhillon, head of San Francisco-based boutique employment firm Dhillon Law Group. Dhillon also represents current and former Google employees who claim they were discriminated against for their political views.
James Finberg of Altshuler Berzon told The Recorder this summer that the firm received dozens of responses in just a few weeks asking women to come forward if they experienced gender pay discrimination at Google. He said he was inspired to focus on Google after learning of the company’s fight with the Labor Department.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three former Google employees, Kelly Ellis, Holly Pease and Kelli Wisuri, who said they believe they received fewer opportunities and less pay than their male counterparts. “Women should have the same opportunities as men, and receive equal pay for substantially similar work,” Wisuri said in a statement announcing the suit.