back to article Google fumes after US Dept of Labor accuses ad giant of lowballing pay for women

Google is on the defensive after its gender pay equality campaign was panned in court by Uncle Sam. Janette Wipper, a Department of Labor regional director, said her investigators "found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce" within the web ads giant. She was speaking in court …

  1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Are Women Paid Less

    Are women paid less than H1-B visa slaves?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Are Women Paid Less

    Would you rather the job and taxes it pays go entirely overseas?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Are Women Paid Less

    "Are women paid less than H1-B visa slaves?"

    If you advertise a crappy very low paid job in IT, in my experience it's overwhelmingly those 2 categories that apply.

    Regardless of a desire for gender equality, the market sets a price based on actual value...

  4. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    Re: Are Women Paid Less

    "...the market sets a price based on actual value..."

    In theory, anyway. IME, salaries and prices tend to be set by corporations on a "let's see what we can get away with" basis.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Are Women Paid Less

    Would you rather the job and taxes it pays go entirely overseas?

    Funnily enough - yes. That is better than having yet another modern day slave. That is better for the society as a whole than that slave bringing in a wife which is mandated by the current immigration law to be a housewife for 5+ years. It is better than the wife, dragging a mother in-law on her tail to exercise on-site control over the "son in-law development plan" which is for all of them is plain and simple "my daughter's husband will be a manager". No ifs, no buts, no coconuts - management or death.

    If they are brought in this results in a huge population without any different goal in life but climbing the greasy pole by hook or by crook (policed by the monster in law at home). The 20 years of H1B have created a toxic workplace culture throughout the industry. They are one of the primary reason there is no innovation any more and you cannot get any work done in half of the companies in the valley. This is getting even worse now as the second generation is coming into the workplace with no engineering background, Ivy league MBA degree paid by dada upon grandma's orders and hired only because they are someone's son. If you think South West Asia nepotism is bad, you have not seen anything - watch the improved valley version as it unfolds in the next two decades.

    It will take decades to repair that damage and it can be repaired only if there is education census requirement on the dependants and they are allowed to work too (Australian style). Then, the mother in law will be told to take her "son in law development plan" where sun does not shine and we will start getting engineers not manager wannabes imported via that channel.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: policed by the monster in law at home, paid by dada upon grandma's orders

    I don't think we should be basing domestic pay legislation on your unresolved mother issues...

    Still, talking helps so I hope you feel a little more balanced after that!

  7. Smooth Newt Silver badge
    Meh

    Re: Are Women Paid Less

    Are women paid less than H1-B visa slaves?

    H1-B visa slaves don't count because they don't have any political clout. They don't get to vote, and there aren't any H1-B visa slaves with political influence. Their role in American politics is to be demonised for stealing jobs and being potential terrorists. Some H1-B visa slaves are also women. I don't know how their pay compares to male H1-B visa slaves.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Are Women Paid Less

    ""Would you rather the job and taxes it pays go entirely overseas?"

    Funnily enough - yes. That is better than having yet another modern day slave."

    oh , you prefer to keep the slaves in the 3rd world?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Are Women Paid Less

    "Are women paid less than H1-B visa slaves?"

    If you advertise a crappy very low paid job in IT, in my experience it's overwhelmingly those 2 categories that apply.

    I've worked with a lot of different developers, admittedly most were male. I've seen tonnes of shit male developers, but very few shit female developers. I think it is partly due to having to deal with people like you that they feel they need to justify themselves.

    Most male developers don't justify themselves, they just assume they are gods.

  10. Your alien overlord - fear me

    I wonder if Janette Wipper is paid the same as male Department of Labor regional directors?

  11. Alumoi

    I wonder if Janette Wipper is paid the same as male Department of Labor regional directors?

    She's paid more in order to show they're not discriminating against women.

  12. Frank N. Stein

    Google can out wait the government. They have more money and better lawyers. Good luck trying to force them to pay anyone more money.

  13. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Slightly more complicated

    USA government contracts for the time being are subject to equal opportunity compliance.

    You fail compliance, you lose the contract. Plain and simple. So on that front the shareholders will not allow Google to outwait anyone.

    What may change, however, is that the department of Labour can be put into line by the Great Orange Baboon to enforce all of this significantly less strictly.

  14. Swarthy Silver badge
    Stop

    Re: Slightly more complicated

    DoL could be pulled into line by the Cheeto in Chief, but you forget that Google was very friendly with the previous administration. They will get no favors from The Orange One.

  15. Mark 85 Silver badge

    At one point rumor had it that a company didn't raise the women's pay but lowered the men's pay to meet the law's requirements*. I wonder if the Googlers thought of trying that?

    * Yeah.. probably just an urban legend but I wouldn't put it past any company any more.

  16. sabroni Silver badge
    Facepalm

    The DoL sued Google earlier this year seeking to get its hands on the details....

    ...of the Chocolate Factory's salary structure to ensure compliance with federal laws on equal pay. Google respond with some bullshit tweet about equal pay?

    Well I'm convinced there's nothing to investigate, it's not like Google would tell lies.

  17. IglooDude

    Re: The DoL sued Google earlier this year seeking to get its hands on the details....

    If Google has actually done the analysis, why not just hand that over to the DoL, is what I'm curious about. Are they safeguarding their algorithm? Surely the DoL can get from the IRS a list of Google employees, their protected characteristics, and their compensation, and do their own non-Google-optimized runthrough? Which now makes me wonder - since DoL could theoretically do that currently for any company at all, then maybe they really are after the algorithm?

  18. nijam Silver badge

    Re: The DoL sued Google earlier this year seeking to get its hands on the details....

    > why not just hand that over to the DoL

    According to the article, the DoL didn't ask; the first Google heard about it was went DoL issued the lawsuit.

  19. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Re: The DoL sued Google earlier this year seeking to get its hands on the details....

    The converse should also be true.

    The DoL's algorithm is publicly available (or should be). How hard is it for Google to run the DoL algorithm on their labor force and see if they comply? That would seem to be the smart thing to do, if you're a high profile company in danger of being audited.

    Unless, of course, you have something to hide...

    (wonder when DoL will take a good hard look at Amazon?)

  20. Adam 52 Silver badge

    Re: The DoL sued Google earlier this year seeking to get its hands on the details....

    "How hard is it for Google to run the DoL algorithm on their labor force and see if they comply?"

    Government stats tend to use the algorithm select sum(pay) group by gender. Or the advanced ones do select sum(pay) group by role, gender. They aren't overly useful because men work overtime more than women, because women take maternity leave and because women are offered more - and take up - flexible working.

    For Google to comply with the government methodology it'd have to pay women more than men, or force them into less social working patterns. Hopefully they won't be obliged to do so.

  21. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Re: The DoL sued Google earlier this year seeking to get its hands on the details....

    Government stats tend to use the algorithm select sum(pay) group by gender. Or the advanced ones do select sum(pay) group by role, gender. They aren't overly useful because men work overtime more than women, because women take maternity leave and because women are offered more - and take up - flexible working.

    You miss the point. Men shouldn't work more overtime than women and should be taking just as much time out for childcare / paternity leave as the women do. It's a systematic bias, which presumably is against the US law (IDK, IANAL.)

  22. deadlockvictim Silver badge

    Comparing like with like

    Maybe I'm very wrong here, but men tend to be the ones who apply for the technical, code-based roles and women tend to apply for touchy-feely-, style-over-substance- or dealing-with-people-roles, at least in my experience. How can one say that the person at the codeface deserves more or less than the one who spins a very favourable picture of one version of reality for a living?

    I was under the impression that Google paid well for the best people, regardless of their sex.

  23. Adam 52 Silver badge

    Re: Comparing like with like

    I suppose this is why Google is asking for the data and methodology. Google almost certainly has the better statisticians.

  24. DavCrav Silver badge

    Re: Comparing like with like

    "I suppose this is why Google is asking for the data and methodology. Google almost certainly has the better statisticians."

    Better statisticians just improves your ability to lie with statistics.

  25. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    Re: Comparing like with like

    re "touchy-feely-, style-over-substance- or dealing-with-people-roles"

    These are the people who end up "supervising" the technical, code-based roles , and , inexplicably , getting paid more to do so

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Comparing like with like

    I suppose this is why Google is asking for the data and methodology. Google almost certainly has the better statisticians.

    I think it's more to put things on an as uneven footing as they can manage.

    From the article: Other than making an unfounded statement which we heard for the first time in court, the DoL hasn't provided any data or shared its methodology

    I note with interest that Google isn't offering to share its methodology here either, a fact often flagged when it comes to discussion about Google's monopoly gateway position to find sites and data online.

  27. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Re: Comparing like with like

    Yes,let's do away with mathematics and science altogether; they're a menace to world peace. Back to the trees, everyone!

  28. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Re: Comparing like with like

    re "touchy-feely-, style-over-substance- or dealing-with-people-roles"

    These are the people who end up "supervising" the technical, code-based roles , and , inexplicably , getting paid more to do so

    Just a wild stab in the dark, but: could it possibly be that those jobs are harder than you think they are, or require skills you don't have?

  29. Potemkine Silver badge

    It seems there is a tendency for members of US administration to make serious accusations without providing the slightest proof justifying these accusations.

    In some countries making false accusations can drag you in front of a court. What about the US?

  30. Kane Silver badge
    Joke

    "In some countries making false accusations can drag you in front of a court. What about the US?"

    Well, funnily enough she was already in court when she made the accusation. Time saving all round then!

  31. Redstone

    The thing I find sinister about all this is that simply making the accusation becomes the punishment for most people: it means you will be tied up in court for a decade fighting the primary accusation (which is designed to blacken the company's name) and then anything else they think they can get an angle on from the discovery process. Your coffers will be sucked dry paying the only winners in this game: the lawyers.

    I don't suppose it matters so much for Google as they have very deep pockets, but for small firms....I guess they had just better get used to the gummint micromanaging their pay scales and making sure they don't reward superior performance by a non-approved demographic.

  32. Hollerithevo Silver badge

    But you can avoid the courts altogether

    If you just pay all your workers fairly -- equal pay for work of equal value -- then you will never fear being dragged into court, or embarrassed, or anything. You just show your jobs and pay grades and that's that.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: But you can avoid the courts altogether

    If you just pay all your workers fairly -- equal pay for work of equal value -- then you will never fear being dragged into court, or embarrassed, or anything. You just show your jobs and pay grades and that's that.

    Nope. That doesn't stop you being accused of it, which you then end up defending against if it's done for financial reasons or because you're in the way of a government, a government official or, say, a company that likes your customers. If you're a small shop, you won't have the moolah to do that because you'll be out of funds before you can win.

    That is the great injustice of the 21st century: you can be at the receiving end of an anonymous reputation-damaging campaign by practically anyone who is either bored, has taken a personal dislike to you or who has political/financial motives to do so, and there's sod all you can do against it because only THEN you will find that the likes of Google and Twitter will deign to wave the "user privacy" flag around. If you need any further evidence of just how dangerous that can be, well, it got Trump in place and by the look of it, his mates are itching to bomb the crap out of North Korea, irrespective of possible consequences.

  34. Swarthy Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Re: But you can avoid the courts altogether

    If you just pay all your workers fairly -- equal pay for work of equal value -- then you will never fear being dragged into court, or embarrassed, or anything. You just show your jobs and pay grades and that's that.
    Did you realize, as you were writing it, that it translated directly into "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear"?

  35. tom dial Silver badge

    Re: But you can avoid the courts altogether

    There are significant problems and complexities with this seemingly simple prescription. First is the question of who is permitted to determine whether two different jobs have equal value and what jobs are tied to which pay grades. Credentials are not worth a lot even when fresh and decline rapidly in utility to the point they are effectively worthless in 5 or 10 years (to be extremely generous in some areas of IT). Different employees with the same technical skills and credentials are likely to be working on things of different value, and their personal characteristics may make them differentially productive. Employees with different supervisors rarely will be evaluated in exactly the same way - the employees are not the same, the jobs are not the same, and the supervisors inevitably will not apply the evaluation rules in exactly the same way. Anyone thinking there is a workaround for this is delusional; the best management can do is limit the effects and reassign employees or supervisors to obtain better skill and personality matches. In all likelihood, the only employees who actually receive equal pay for equal value work are those paid on a piecework basis. Even salespeople paid 100% commission on product sold may have different value due to differences in their target purchaser populations.

    "You just show your jobs and pay grades and that's that" doesn't work all that well in many classifications in the US federal government, where in my experience we often lost the best employees to the private sector, and there is no reason to think it is reasonable in the private sector either.

  36. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Re: But you can avoid the courts altogether

    Do you realise that that argument can be used against tax inspectors, police breathalysers, any searches at airports or high profile sites like Parliament,.. ?

  37. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Correlation is not causality

    The big problem with investigations like this is that employment contracts are civil contracts. Regulation should, therefore, be limited to ensuring that minimum standards, such as hours worked, minimum wage, equal opportunity, etc. are met and that the playing field is as level as possible (collective bargaining). More than that and it quickly becomes interference with a company's ability to trade.

    In terms of equal pay this means little more than candidates with the same qualifications doing the same job should start at the same pay grade. But there must always be room for individual negotiations and this is where the problems start: men are generally better at negotiating higher salaries but they might also get preferential treatment if they're prepared to work longer or unsociable hours, which is likely to favour men. People might also get offered better jobs because of their looks – anyone who thinks this doesn't happen, hasn't spent much time in the workforce – which might favour women. But employers are unlikely to gain a significant advantage by systematically paying men more than women to do the same thing. Where flexibility in wages is important is where you see bonus schemes or non-salary benefits such as company cars.

  38. Meerkatjie

    Re: Correlation is not causality

    https://hbr.org/2014/06/why-women-dont-negotiate-their-job-offers

    Women get penalised more for negotiating a pay rise than men which is why women don't negotiate for pay rises more often. Men aren't inherently better at negotiating than women.

  39. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Re: Correlation is not causality

    @Meerkatje

    Thanks for the link. An interesting report.

  40. tom dial Silver badge

    Re: Correlation is not causality

    Looks can work either way. I know of one instance in which an extremely attractive and well-qualified female applicant was downrated - by an attractive female manager - because it was thought that if hired she would be a distraction to her male co-workers. In the event, we hired her. She was not a significant distraction in the office, and turned out to be an outstanding (and rapidly promoted) employee.

  41. John Sanders
    Flame

    I propose two things to women:

    These two things end the problem, choose weasely:

    Either companies fire all men and hire only women. (If women earn less they are cheaper employees and thus more profit)

    Or by governmental mandate we make every single woman earn 10% more than a man, thus ending the mythical pay gap forever.

    Choose the form of the destructor.

    And please leave us alone, we're tired of PC bullshit.

  42. Hollerithevo Silver badge

    Re: I propose two things to women:

    Mythical pay gap: the one invisible to the chaps, who are paid more. Do you actually have ANY evidence that the pay gap is mythical? If so, what are your data? Can you share them please?

  43. Swarthy Silver badge

    Re: I propose two things to women:

    Evidence, not so much. The pay gap (or lack there of) is a statistical emergent that appears and disappears, like Brigadoon, depending on who is massaging compiling the numbers.

    However, the fact that the pay gap has been "25 cents on the dollar" for alt least the past 30 years leads me to conclude that it's crap. No social or economic indicator has been that stable for that long. If it were 17% one year, 30% a few years later, dropping to 10% after that, I would be less skeptical, but 25%, solid, for 30+ years makes me inclined to doubt the veracity of the figures.

  44. tom dial Silver badge

    Re: I propose two things to women:

    The problem with the wage gap is not so much that it does not exist as that those who proclaim it are not honest about it. The 70% or 75% number bandied about seems to reflect all employees, without taking into account that the range of jobs held by women is not the same as that held by men, even in the same field, and most of the gap can be accounted for by that alone. Historically, female physicians have tended to be better represented in pediatrics and family practice, specialties where average compensation is lower than various surgical specialties in which men are better represented. Moreover, women are much more likely than men to leave the work force for varying periods in connection with child raising, and as a result may be absent for a significant part of the mid-career period when large organizations are selecting for upper management positions and in any case may not be maintaining and increasing technical skills.

    I would not argue that this type of thing is necessarily right, although in a relatively free economy it is pretty much inevitable and monkeying around with it is likely to have unintended and undesirable long term effects. However, it is not something employers can reasonably be tasked to correct because so much of it is embedded in the overall culture in which they exist. Large companies probably are better at it than small ones, but even they are limited in what they can do by such things as the entry applicant pool.

  45. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Re: I propose two things to women:

    A lot more people are tired of the patriarchy :)

  46. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Re: I propose two things to women:

    without taking into account that the range of jobs held by women is not the same as that held by men,

    Stop. You don't understand (or know?) some fairly basic aspects of societal gender inequality. Go educate yourself.

  47. SimonC

    > Or by governmental mandate we make every single woman earn 10% more than a man, thus ending the mythical pay gap forever.

    That would actually be a genius move. If you think more men are hired than woman *now* because of the patriarchy, imagine what it would be after that!

  48. Cuddles Silver badge

    Why are they in court?

    "The DoL sued Google earlier this year seeking to get its hands on the details of the Chocolate Factory's salary structure to ensure compliance with federal laws on equal pay. Google countered by claiming not only is it in compliance with the laws"

    If Google actually offers equal pay, it would be incredibly easy to prove it by just showing the DoL what they asked for. The fact that Goggle is willing to go to court, not to prove anything but in an attempt to avoid having anyone actually see any evidence, is fairly conclusive proof that they do not, in fact, do what they claim.

  49. Adam 52 Silver badge

    Re: Why are they in court?

    What's equal pay? Only if you can answer that question is it easy to show. If Google release figures in open court then they will be massaged to show whatever outcome the publisher wants to show and Google will suffer reputation damage.

    Google will pay men more by one metric, simply because Sergey, Sunday, Eric and Larry are all men. If Larry and Sergey had been female they wouldn't, but there's nothing they can do about that short of gender reassignment surgery.

  50. Tim Worstal

    Roughly speaking the problem is that

    The two are using different definitions. DoL tends to think that pay should be the same for roughly similar positions. Google for the same positions. Thus both can be right by their own definitions.

    So, managers should get paid the same, right? HR managers should be paid the same as coding managers? Well, umm.....OK, managers of those overseeing the Goog Algo itself should get paid the same as the manager of the Doodles? Err, well, ......OK, so managers of Python coders, the managers with the same education, experience and place of work, should be paid the same, regardless of gender (or melanin content, who they try to pick up on date night etc)?

    Roughly speaking mind, the DoL is towards the beginning of that cry for equal pay, Google towards the end. Who you think is right about what equal pay should mean is up to you but that is where the argument is.

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