More than 60 women who are current or former employees of Google say they may take legal action against the tech giant over alleged sexism and pay disparities with their male colleagues.
Some of the women accuse Google of paying them less than men despite having equal qualifications and similar positions, while others claim a hostile work environment toward women impeded their career advancement.
The potential lawsuit would build on a case brought by the U.S. Department of Labor that has accused Google of systemic sexism in pay difference and convinced a judge to force the company to provide its salary records, the Guardian reported.
The latest development follows Google’s recent firing of male software engineer James Damore, who wrote a 10-page manifesto describing his skepticism of the company's diversity initiatives and suggesting that men, on average, are more prevalent in the technology industry because of certain “biological differences” between the sexes.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai said Damore’s memo violated the company’s code of conduct and advanced “harmful gender stereotypes,” but asserted that “much of what is in that memo is fair to debate,” the Guardian reported.
Damore is reportedly pursuing his own legal options, such as suing the company for unlawful firing. As Fox News previously reported, however, any such suit is unlikely to be successful.
“Free speech at a private-sector employer is not a protected right,” said Rick Rossein, a professor at City University of New York’s School of Law. “Most Americans, even some law students, believe the First Amendment protects all of us. But it only applies to government, which cannot interfere with our First Amendment rights.”
Civil rights attorney James Finberg, representing the female employees, claims he has interviewed around 30 women who might be part of the case -- and found what he described as clear evidence of gender-based disparities and discrimination at the company.
“They are concerned that women are channeled to levels and positions that pay less than men with similar education and experience,” he said, adding that some women, despite having the same positions and qualifications as men, received lower pay, bonuses and other compensation.
The interviewed women told the attorney that they make roughly $40,000 less than their male counterparts working in the same position. One woman said her salary was two-thirds of a male colleague’s pay.
According to Finberg, about half of the women who contacted him about the potential lawsuit still work at Google, while a dozen others said rampant gender discrimination in the company influenced their decision to quit.
One woman, a former senior-level employee who remains anonymous out of fear of retribution, claims that men were routinely paid more than women – including one case in which a male subordinate was paid more than his female superior, the Guardian reported.
“It’s demoralizing,” she said. “There’s something subconsciously that happens where you do start to question the value that you’re adding to the company.”
Another woman who wished to remain anonymous said she was a “user experience” designer at Google for two years. She told the Guardian she felt like she “wasn’t playing the game in the ‘boys club’ environment,” and often had sexist remarks directed toward her. She claims she was also denied a promotion despite taking on a heavy workload and accumulating numerous achievements.
“I was watching male co-workers progress at a faster rate than myself. It was really disturbing,” she added.
“I was watching male co-workers progress at a faster rate than myself. It was really disturbing.”
A Google spokesperson responded to the report of a potential lawsuit.
“Sixty people is a really small sample size,” the spokesperson told the Guardian. “There are always going to be differences in salary based on location, role and performance, but the process is blind to gender.”
Finberg said the potential lawsuit would have a broader aim than just Google.
“Google is not alone in Silicon Valley,” he said. “The goal of the case is to not only get Google to change its practices, but to encourage other Silicon Valley companies to change their pay practices as well.”