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Newest Gender Pay Suit Says Google Violated State Law

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Google headquarters in Mountain View. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Four women have filed a new version of a wage discrimination lawsuit against Google. They claim the web giant not only pays women less than men but also uses previous salary information to determine pay, which is a violation of California state law.

Recently, a judge tossed out a previous version of this lawsuit -- citing that the request for class-action status was too broad. Attorney James Finberg narrowed down the plaintiffs to four women: Kelly Ellis, a former software engineer for Google; Holly Pease, a former manager in corporate engineering; Kelli Wisuri, a former enterprise operations coordinator; and Heidi Lamar, a former preschool teacher at Google's Children Center in Palo Alto.

"The problem of using prior pay to set salary is that women make less than men in our society, and so using prior pay institutionalizes gender discrimination," says Finberg, who filed the new version of the suit on Wednesday.

In 2017, the California Equal Pay Act was amended, stating that an employer could not rely on prior pay to set salaries. On Jan. 1, 2018, the law was amended again to say that employers can now no longer ask about a potential employee's previous salary.

Finberg alleges that Google has used prior pay as a means of determining salaries, and he uses plaintiff Heidi Lamar as an example. According to Finberg, at the time Lamar started with the Mountain View-based company as a preschool teacher, she already had earned a bachelor of arts degree and a master's degree in teaching at Bennington College in Vermont. She also, according to Finberg, had come to Google with four years of teaching experience in New York.


"They asked her what her prior pay was and they gave her that prior pay. Based on that salary, they put her in the lower pay." Finberg says.

Around the same time of Lamar's hire, Google, according to Finberg, hired a man for an equal position at a higher pay scale. The man, according to Finberg, had less qualifications and educational experience than Lamar.

Google provided KQED with details of its most recent analysis of salary and bonuses awarded to employees. The internal analysis, according to Google, found that women receive 99.7 cents to each dollar a man receives.

Gina Scigliano, a spokeswoman for the company, disputes the claims of the amended lawsuit.

“We work really hard to create a great workplace for everyone, and to give everyone the chance to thrive here," Scigliano says. "Job levels and promotions are determined through rigorous hiring and promotion committees, and must pass multiple levels of review, including checks to make sure there is no bias in these decisions.”

The U.S. Department of Labor is currently investigating Google for pay discrimination. The Labor Department said that last year it found significant disparities adverse to women in every job classification. Finberg says the plaintiffs in this newest case are not only asking for back pay for the amount they believe they should have been paid, but also a change in Google's policies and practices.

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