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Court rejects government's request in wage bias probe

A recent decision by an administrative law judge may affect how future investigations may be conducted. As part of its investigation into pay discrimination claims, the Department of Labor sought information on nearly 25,000 employees, including birth dates, citizenship and visa information, salary and bonus compensation, as well as cell phone numbers and email addresses.

The Labor Department believed that Google was engaging in discriminatory pay practices by paying female employees significantly less than their male counterparts. Since Google is a government contractor, the Labor Department was growing increasingly concerned that the tech giant was violating federal anti-discrimination rules that apply to all companies that solicit business from the federal government. 

Google resisted the inquiry. It argued that providing such information would be unduly burdensome and could jeopardize the privacy of its employees. An administrative law judge agreed, ruling that the Labor Department’s rationale for the inquiry was too speculative to begin with, and that the request on its face was overbroad and unduly burdensome. It questioned whether the notion that women were “less successful negotiators” than men led to an “extreme disparity” in compensation between the two.

The judge further reasoned that the Labor Department had not conducted a proper inquiry into Google’s policies and practices to discover the root of any compensation discrepancies. The story is an example of how discovery searches, if not properly tailored, could be rejected which would adversely affect meritorious discrimination claims.

If you have questions about how a company has, or has not, properly compensated you and you believe that you have been discriminated against, an experienced employment law attorney can help. 

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