back to article Open World? More like closed world: Women sue Oracle for 'paying them less' than blokes

Oracle is being sued by some of its former women staffers who claim they were deliberately and unfairly paid less than their male colleagues. The class-action lawsuit [PDF] filed in the San Mateo County state court of California accused the Redwood City enterprise software giant of gender discrimination. "At all relevant …

  1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Note to plaintiffs

    Any potential merits of the case notwithstanding: class actions like this often have unwanted side-effects, such as employers relocating to other states or jurisdictions.

    1. BillG
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Note to plaintiffs

      ...employed by the database giant as project lead, principal application engineer, and application engineer, respectively. In those roles, the women say they were paid less than their male counterparts.

      People at these levels don't have access to salary information. I'm wondering, how do they know they were paid less than their male peers?

      I took a look at the PDF filing and the claims are based "on information and belief", which is legalize for "we have no proof, but we think we're right anyway".

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Note to plaintiffs

        we have no proof - and this is the only way to force the employer to reveal the truth !

      2. Daedalus Silver badge

        Re: Note to plaintiffs

        It's the thin end of a wedge. Next comes "Discovery" where the defendant - yes, the defendant - is forced to turn over information to the plaintiff. The lawsuit, once accepted by the court, has the equivalent force of a search warrant.

        1. raindog

          Re: Note to plaintiffs

          "Yes the defendant!" OMG! Discovery! What a shock.

          I know it's strange outside of the US but it's not that bizarre a procedure, and no, it does not have the "equivalent force of a search warrant". It's a specification for evidence BOTH SIDES are required to turn off - plaintiff and defendant. Plaintiff asks for evidence, defendant either gives it or argues with a judge if they should. It's not really worth putting in quotes and extremely is routine.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Note to plaintiffs

        People at these levels don't have access to salary information. I'm wondering, how do they know they were paid less than their male peers?

        I always find this entertaining. In the organization I'm currently working for everyone knows exactly what everyone else earns because if you're a Grade 3 with three years seniority you're on exactly the same salary as everyone else at that grade. The CEO is ex-army and detests PRP (Performance Related Pay) with the zeal of Torquemada after heresy of course. He thinks pay differentials at the same "rank" (or the perception that there might be such differentials) undermine "unit cohesion".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Note to plaintiffs

          But what, exactly, are the bad things about salary transparency? Why don't we all know what everyone else is paid? Only one i can think of is to hide unfair pay discrepancies.

          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: Note to plaintiffs

            Why don't we all know what everyone else is paid?

            Depends very much and the job but it making pay discrepancies known can lead to workplace conflicts. But there are other reasons why remuneration is generally considered to be part of a private, commercial contract and not disclosed: disclosure can limit both parties in future negotiations.

            1. Naselus

              Re: Note to plaintiffs

              "Depends very much and the job but it making pay discrepancies known can lead to workplace conflicts."

              So you mean 'yes, it's purely to hide unfair pay discrepancies'.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Note to plaintiffs

                It's to hide pay discrepancies, but less of the "unfair" bit, in my opinion. Pay discrepancies can open up for all kinds of reasons. Say you're planning to leave your company for a job elsewhere, but your boss persuades you to stay in part by giving you a raise, because he values your work. Should all your peers automatically get a raise as well? That would be nuts. Is that pay discrepancy unfair? I'd say not; you earned it by making the company evaluate your worth, and they judged that you were worth more than your less ambitious colleagues. Seems fair to me, your colleagues are free to make similar moves themselves if they so wish.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Note to plaintiffs

              "making pay discrepancies known can lead to workplace conflicts"

              Precisely the point. Which is the root problem here, the discrepancy or the knowledge of it? Given that suspicions are arguably even more toxic than facts (the latter not being underhand) the solution is obvious: salary transparency and equality. No individual negotiations allowed, everyone has a Grade and they get paid at the set rate. You can still be accused of discriminatory promotion policies, but allegations of directly discriminatory salaries are eliminated at a stroke.

              I'm an STO (Senior Technical Officer) so I know for a fact I earn the same as other STO's and also SEO's (Senior Executive Officer). All S grades are my peers, all H(igher) grades are subordinates and all P(rincipal) grades outrank me. It defuses a lot of the bovine byproduct of "office politics".

    2. frank 3

      Re: Note to plaintiffs

      So, don't ask for justice or fair treatment you worthless scum! Suck it up and just be happy your lords and masters see fit to pay you the pennies they do. It's more than you are worth!

      Sheesh

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Note to plaintiffs

        So, don't ask for justice or fair treatment you worthless scum!

        They did choose to work for Oracle so I'm picturing them as scum-spawn the incompetent demon from Old Harry's Game

    3. Aqua Marina

      Re: Note to plaintiffs

      I've always held the belief that you get what you negotiate. If you end up earning twice as much as the guy or gal sat next to you because of this, then you've earned it and deserve it. Negotiation is just an important skill set in business as any other. If you're happy to settle for a lower amount, then you are getting what you are worth.

      1. 9Rune5

        Re: Note to plaintiffs

        "Negotiation is just an important skill set in business as any other. If you're happy to settle for a lower amount, then you are getting what you are worth."

        Plus, looking at the salary exclusively is not necessarily showing the whole picture. I enjoy working from home. That is part of the package that I have negotiated for myself.

        If I am not happy, I switch employer. Problem solved.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "People at these levels don't have access to salary information. I'm wondering, how do they know they were paid less than their male peers?"

    I can tell you that If you advertise the same mid range IT jobs at market top and market bottom rates, you will get far more women apply for the lower paid job as for whatever reasons they are often willing to work for less - QED the "market rates" for women are lower so it's a fairly sure conclusion that there is a disparity in most large companies. Not necessarily due to any direct fault / bias of those companies though!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh, women self select lower salaries!

      Perfect excuse! She asked for it your honour!!

  3. Daedalus Silver badge

    Catch 22?

    It's sometimes hard to see why a rationally run company bothers to indulge in discrimination by design. What's the point, if the work gets done.

    However their is a damned-if-you-do-etc scenario. Woman gets to level X along with similarly aged male of equivalent qualifications etc. She takes absence for whatever, and of course by law and modern custom returns at her previous level, presumably even at the salary current for that grade when she returns, rather than when she left. But male meanwhile has gotten points by whatever means, and is now being paid more. So does she have a case for claiming discrimination?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Catch 22?

      I think you missed the point. The point is not to get work done, in fact CEOs are quite happy to do no work whatsoever and still receive compensation.

      The point is to get money, and if necessary resort to shady tactics as long as you feel safe enough that you won't get caught. Sometimes you don't even get caught until you're dead, which is the outcome that everyone hopes for.

      Case in point, all of the robber barons assume that they won't get caught as long as they believe they can force their employees to never discuss their compensation.

      Turns out that talk is cheap, and when the economy is a dumpster fire people are more willing to take up their torches and pitchforks when they get stiffed out of a raise.

      And the cycle repeats itself, as every empire since the beginning of recorded history.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Catch 22?

      Actions like this are full of logical flaws such as: if the tech industry can pay women less as men to do the same thing, why doesn't it employ more of them?

      There's no doubt that discrimination in individual situations does occur but I agree with you that it's probably not systemic. Still, you know American lawyers once they scent blood.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Catch 22?

        "why doesn't it employ more of them?"

        Because they are commonly considered less desirable employees (for instance many company owners actively avoid employing women of child baring age), and because there are fewer of them in technology.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The whole issue is summarised here...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LS37SNYjg8w

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Completely understandable...

    I can tell you that If you advertise the same mid range IT jobs at market top and market bottom rates, you will get far more women apply for the lower paid job...

    Those pretty little things can never get their beautiful lady heads around manly concepts like numbers. It's the same thing with exchange rates, the price of petrol, and indeed the need for petrol at all. How many times have you passed a lady by the side of the road in her tiny pink car, her petite, gentle and feminine face screwed up in consternation because 'daisy just stopped'...

    So come on ladies, don't get petulant! Stick to the reception desk and the meeting planning and organising the coffee round, where you can surely shine (and find a husband)! Leave the proper earning to the men! After all, at Oracle, the 'L' stands for Larry not Laura!

  6. Mark 65

    This is bullshit

    Apart from the likelihood that they do not truly know others' salary levels

    "At all relevant times, Oracle has known or should have known of this pay disparity between its female and male employees, yet Oracle has taken no action to equalize men and women’s pay for substantially equal or similar work," the suit claimed.

    "Oracle’s failure to pay female employees the same wage rates paid to male employees for substantially equal or similar work has been and is willful."

    This shit does not take into account that two people doing largely the same work in a non-unionised non-blue collar environment (i.e. no formulaic block pay bargaining) will generally be paid differing rates due to: bargaining ability, productivity and experience (perceived or otherwise). That's the difference in the professional world. You push hard for as much as you can get and your boss' perception of you will either help or hinder you in that endeavour.

    Typically, though not always, I have found male counterparts to be pushier bastards that are far more adept at getting paid beyond their worth than females that seem to negotiate for an honest salary and therefore get paid less.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: This is bullshit

      The one time I worked for a real company (one big enough for an HR dept) the salary offer was based on your current job. So useless waste of skin managers who happened to be coming from overpaid monopoly telecoms company got paid 2x as much asbrilliant crypto/security guys coming from academic jobs.

      I'm guessing that the, "10% more than what you claim is you current salary" might lead to women being underpaid for the same role even without an official "if tits { salary *= 0.75}" policy

      1. Naselus

        Re: This is bullshit

        "10% more than what you claim is you current salary"

        This does seem to be a rule of thumb in a lot of places, and even when it's not, it seems many recruitment consultants think it should be. And it's idiotic, since many roles have wildly different market rates.

        For example, I'm typically an infrastructure consultant and expect a salary in the region of 40-50k a year to perform that function - that's about how much infrastructure roles pay round here. However, when I'm between 'real' jobs, I'll often take desktop support roles, since I can do them with my eyes closed; these will rarely pay more than 28k. I still expect the market rate for infrastructure roles when I return to 'proper' work, though, and based on my experience I usually get it.

        A couple of years ago, when I was in one of these in-between roles while I waited for something appealing to show up, I had a conversation with a recruitment consultant over an infrastructure engineering role which I was perfectly qualified for. When I revealed that I was expecting to get 40% more money for the role she was advertising than the one I happened to be in at that moment, she told me that she didn't think that kind of pay jump happened outside of senior management roles and wanted to put me in at 32k. I told her to get lost and was in a properly-paid infrastructure role within a month or two.

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "doing away entirely with the need to decide who to pay"

    So, updates and backups are being automated, now it's employee pay.

    Hey, Larry, why don't you just automate the CEO ? Then you can go off and play in your jet or your yacht.

    Because automating employee pay is in no way ever going to come back and bite your ass. Sure.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is difficult

    Many employers attempt to pay *each* employee as little as possible for jobs where the productivity/quality of work varies by individual. You want them to be paid just enough to be motivated and not quit. This is a normal functioning market which most people wouldn't have a problem with.

    The problem occurs when employers don't treat people as individuals based purely on merit, because of their gender or other protected characteristic.

    For instance, if many employers independently conclude that women are rubbish, the market operates in a broken/unfair way because women cannot just quit and find their true market value.

    Unfortunately there is lots of evidence that this widespread discrimination actually happens, even with good faith. Almost nobody THINKS that they discriminate, because that conflicts with our self image (not to mention the law), but we all do.

    How do we fix this apart from reverting to "equal pay for equal work" (work meaning inflexible pay grades based on job title/grade)? Even if we had that, what's to stop all the women from being given junior roles?

    I don't think there's an easy answer but it's worth looking/thinking about, but very very carefully in order to avoid Damore-esque downfalls.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Larry Pay Gap

    I think you'll find that disparities of pay at "the great and benevolent company" (sorry, the brainwashing still hasn't worn off) are across everyone, not just between men and women.

    When I worked there, discussing pay and compensation was a disciplinary offence, as written in my contract. People who came in through acquisition were often paid less than the company pay bands, but they were in no rush to make up the difference. This resulted in huge differences in pay between people on exactly the same grade.

    It's unfortunate that some of those people were women, but I don't think it's strictly gender related.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If companies published the average salaries for each job role (including by gender / other demographics, provided you can't identify an individual salary) that would eliminate any doubt.

    As it stands lots of people think they are underpaid, given the ever rising cost of living, devaluing currencies, and that senior level salaries keep accelerating away.

    I read somewhere that the difference between average US incomes and that of company CEOs is now approaching 1000 times, in the past it was only around 10 times. If you take into account offshoring of work to low cost centres, the difference between the highest and lowest salaries would be approaching 10,000 times! i.e. The highest earner probably earns more than the combined income of entire office complexes of employees in some parts of the world.

    When they eventually replace all workers with machines, a sprinkling of CEOs and shareholders will own everything. People better rise up before they activate the enforcer drones.

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