Judge Rules in Google’s Favour in Employee Data Case Against Labor Department

A judge on Friday ruled the Labor Department’s request for almost two decades of data – including personal information on over 25,000 Google employees – is “unreasonable in that it is over-broad, intrusive on employee privacy, unduly burdensome, and insufficiently focused on obtaining the relevant information”. Google has 30 days from the moment the order becomes final to share that information. Google did not comply and in an attempt to force it to release the data, the Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against the tech giant at the end of previous year.

The judge said that the Dept of Labor had not provided a persuasive reason for the kind of personal data demanded.

But, as these requests went beyond the scope of what was relevant and posed unnecessary risks of fraud and identity thefts, Judge Berlin sought to impose limits and ordered Google to provide a smaller sample of data for the year 2014 along with contact information of up to 8,000 employees.

During the litigation, as the OFCCP and Google battled over just how much data the company was compelled to hand over, a Department of Labor witness claimed that there are “systemic” gender-related disparities in compensation practices related to salary negotiations.

It requested the employee details as part of its investigation, which administrative law judge Steve Berlin denied on grounds of the demands being: “over-broad, intrusive on employee privacy, unduly burdensome and insufficiently focused on obtaining the relevant information”.

The department theorizes that because women have been found to be less successful at negotiating starting pay than men, and because Google negotiates starting pay, women generally enter Google’s workforce with lower pay than men and lag behind men throughout their careers since raises are based on existing pay rates.

OFCCP had requested Google to provide employee compensation and other details dating back 15 years, as well as extensive personal employee data and contact information (names, addresses, personal emails, telephone numbers) for confidential interviews. The government agency in January sued Google to compel it to hand over certain compensation data as part of an audit to ensure that the company, a federal contractor, is honoring equal employment laws.

Google’s head of Human Resources Eileen Naughton disputed the Labor Department’s findings Monday. “We remain committed to treating, and paying, people fairly and without bias with regard to factors like gender or race”.

A spokesman for the Department of Labor, meanwhile, did not immediately respond Sunday night to an email about its next step.

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), an agency of the US Labor Department, has been investigating Google’s salary records for any signs of gender inequality.