Scandal over discrimination at the company deepens as dozens of current and former staff say they earned less than men despite equal qualifications
More than 60 current and former Google employees are considering bringing a class-action lawsuit alleging sexism and pay disparities against women, as the technology giant wrestles with a deepening crisis over alleged discrimination.
James Finberg, the civil rights attorney working on the possible legal action on behalf of the female employees, told the Guardian they contend they have earned less than men at Google despite equal qualifications and comparable positions.
Others, he said, have struggled in other ways to advance their careers at Google due to a culture that is hostile to women.
The Silicon Valley company is reeling from the leak over the weekend of a male software engineers 10-page manifesto criticizing diversity initiatives and arguing that men occupy more leadership roles than women in tech biological differences.
The document, which was widely condemned as misogynistic and scientifically inaccurate, prompted Google to eventually fire the author, James Damore, and reignited debate about discrimination and sexual harassment that critics say is rampant in the technology industry.
A class-action gender discrimination suit would build on a case brought by the US Department of Labor (DoL), which is arguing that Google systematically underpays women and recently convinced a judge to force the company to hand over a portion of the companys salary records.
Google is vehemently denying that its salaries are discriminatory. However Finberg, who said he had interviewed around half of the 60 women who may be part of his lawsuit, said their testimony indicated there are clear disparities and prejudices that hurt women at the Mountain View company.
They are concerned that women are channeled to levels and positions that pay less than men with similar education and experience, Finberg said. Despite similar positions and qualifications, he said, some women said they make less than male counterparts in salaries, bonuses and stock options.
Several women he interviewed have said they make around $40,000 less than male colleagues doing the same work, with one woman saying she makes two-thirds of a male peers salary.
Of the more than 60 women who have reached out to the attorney in the last three weeks, about half still work for Google, according to Finberg, who said that more than a dozen claimed that discrimination played a role in their decision to leave the company.
One former senior manager who recently left Google told the Guardian she repeatedly learned of men at the same level as her earning tens of thousands of dollars more than her, and in one case, she said she had a male employee join her team with a higher salary despite the fact that she was his superior.
Its demoralizing, said the worker, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution. Theres something subconsciously that happens where you do start to question the value that youre adding to the company.
The manager said that dealing with frequent sexism in the workplace and helping other women navigate the discrimination they were facing took a toll on her and contributed to her decision to quit. After a while, it just became exhausting, she said. It takes emotional energy that builds up over time.
Finberg argued that when men get higher compensation in the form of base salary and stocks the big initial disparity turns into a larger and larger disparity every year.
I felt like I wasnt playing the game in the boys club environment, said another woman who worked for two years as a user experience designer and recently left Google. She said she regularly dealt with sexist remarks, such as comments about her looks, and that she felt it was discriminatory when she was denied a promotion despite her achievements and large workload.
I was watching male coworkers progress at a faster rate than myself. It was really disturbing, said the designer, who also requested anonymity.