Dept. of Labor claims Google's pay disparities are 'systemic'

The search giant says it doesn't have an equal pay problem, but won't prove it.

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After suing Google for not releasing employment data, the US Department of Labor now claims pay disparities between men and women are widespread throughout the company. Although Google claims it has successfully closed its gender pay gap, Labor department officials testified in court in San Francisco today that Google may have violated federal employment laws, the Guardian reports. According to regional director Janette Wipper, the department found "systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce."

Today's hearing was part of the Department of Labor's lawsuit against the search giant that started in January. As a federal contractor, Google is required to hand over employment records to the government, but the company has repeatedly refused, claiming that the records request were too broad and invaded their employee's privacy.

The labor department got their data from a 2015 snapshot of salaries, the Guardian notes, but Wipper used the information to argue in court that Google should be compelled to release more information. Wipper says the department needs to be able to review earlier data and conduct confidential employee interviews in order to "understand what's causing the disparity." If Google continues to withhold employment data, the department's lawyers have asked the court to sever the company's contracts with the federal government and bar Google from doing business with the government in the future.

Google's lawyers, on the other hand, called it a "fishing expedition" and argued again that the information was irrelevant to a compliance review. Google attorneys also claimed the Department of Labor's request was an unreasonable search that violated the company's fourth amendment rights. In a statement, Google "vehemently" disagreed with the accusations and called the government's data into question. "Every year, we do a comprehensive and robust analysis of pay across genders and we have found no gender pay gap," the statement said. "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."

While Google has been slowly inching towards diversity and many tech giants have pledged to close the gender pay gap, the Department of Labor has been cracking down on discrimination of all sorts in the industry. Earlier this year the department sued Oracle for allegedly conducting discriminatory employment practices.