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Google Pays $118 Million to Settle Class-Action Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

On June 10, 2022, Google LLC (“Google” or the “Company”) agreed to pay $118 million to settle a class action gender discrimination lawsuit filed by former employees in the Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco. Originally filed in September 2017, the lawsuit advanced four California state law causes of action against Google based on alleged salary disparity, including an Equal Pay Act claim, a Labor Code claim, a Business and Professions Code claim, and a claim for declaratory judgment.

According to the three former female Google employees who filed the class action (“Plaintiffs”), Google “maintained throughout California a ‘centrally determined and uniformly applied policy and/or practice of paying its female employees less than male employees for substantially similar work.’” In support of their allegations, Plaintiffs included findings from a 2015 U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) investigation that Google’s Mountain View office presented “systematic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce.”

In May 2021, Judge Andrew Y.S. Cheng certified a class of approximately 15,500 current and former female Google workers employed in any of the 236 Covered Positions in California since September 14, 2013. The Court also certified Plaintiffs’ claim for waiting time penalties under California Labor Code §§ 201-203.

On June 10, 2022, Plaintiffs filed an Unopposed Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement (“Settlement”). If approved, the Settlement will resolve Plaintiffs’ claims by (1) creating a non-reversionary monetary fund of $118 million to redress past harms, and (2) providing for substantial programmatic relief to prevent future harms. The forward-looking relief includes provisions for the engagement of mutually agreed upon independent experts to evaluate how Google might improve both its annual pay equity process and its process for setting pay level at hire. An external monitor is to oversee Google’s good faith efforts to address and implement the experts’ recommendations.

The Settlement also calls for Google to hire an independent industrial organizational psychologist to change the hiring policy and practice. In addition, an independent labor economist will evaluate Google’s annual pay equity practices and recommend changes to avoid further harms.   

Commenting on the non-monetary provisions of the Settlement, Plaintiff Holly Pease opined, “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.” 

This lawsuit is not the first time Google has been accused of unlawful employment practices. The Company previously faced discrimination accusations following a DOL audit. These claims were resolved in a 2021 settlement in which Google agreed to pay over $3.8 million to more than 5,500 then-current female and Asian employees and job applicants whom the DOL identified as disadvantaged. That settlement included $1,353,052 in back pay and interest to 2,565 female employees in engineering positions who suffered pay discrimination, and $1,232,000 in back pay and interest to 1,757 female and 1,219 Asian applicants not hired for software engineering positions.

A preliminary settlement approval hearing for this action was set for June 21, 2022, but has been rescheduled due to the court’s request for additional information.

If the court ultimately grants final approval of the Settlement, a third-party administrator will allocate settlement awards to each Class Member based on an objective formula, detailed in the Plan of Allocation. Class members can access Settlement-related material at the following link: Google Lawsuit.

Updates will be posted to this blog as the matter progresses.  The case caption for this lawsuit is Ellis v. Google LLC, No. CGC-17-561299, filed in San Francisco Superior Court.

The legal team at Miller Shah LLP has significant experience representing employment matters. If you have any questions regarding this subject or this post, please contact Chiharu Sekino (cgsekino@millershah.com) or Stephen Rutkowski (strutkowski@millershah.com). The firm can also be reached toll-free at (866) 540-5505.

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