Google Told to Hand Over a Narrower Set of Pay Data

Eileen Naughton Google’s VP for People Operations    
   Cindy Ord  Getty

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), an agency of the US Labor Department, has been investigating Google's salary records for any signs of gender inequality.

A judge ruled Friday that Google does not have to give up all data demanded by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), due to privacy concerns.

Citing fears about hacking - and recent cyber attacks on the US government - the court instead recommended the agency seek and obtain from Google the telephone numbers and email addresses from up to 5,000 of its workers, provided the company already has that data in its possession.

That allegation came amid a lawsuit - seeking large amounts of detailed employee data - by the department's office for contract compliance, which enforces federal laws over USA government contractors such as Google.

In the provisional ruling, the judge decided the OFCCP should get some but not all of the data it requested, citing undue burden on the tech giant and employees (such as the security of data), the fact that some of the data it was seeking fell outside the period when Google was a federal contractor, and further questioning the theories on potential causes of pay disparity.

A spokesman for the Department of Labor, meanwhile, did not immediately respond Sunday night to an email about its next step.

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The government sued Google back in January after the company refused to release the data it said was needed to carry out the audit.

"OFFCP has already collected for 21,114 employees information such as name, date of birth, place of birth, citizenship status, visa status, salary and stock grants", Berlin wrote in his decision. It has also interviewed 20 or so Google executives and managers.

Federal investigators can try again, however, if they can "show that the request is reasonable, within its authority, relevant to the investigation, focused, and not unduly burdensome", the judge found.

The judge decided that the OFCCP will have to do more work if it wants to receive more info.

If the Department of Labor doesn't file an appeal and Berlin's recommendation is finalized, Naughton said Google will comply with the rest of the order and provide "the more limited data set" approved by the judge, which includes contact information for up to 8,000 employees.

The Labor Department plans to take the information Google is ordered to produce and start talking to Googlers about their jobs and pay. In a blog post, Naughton said, "While we're pleased with Friday's recommended decision, we remain committed to treating and paying, people fairly and without bias with regard to factors like gender or race".

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