Heidi Lamar will never forget the first time she visited one of Google's Children Centers, a child care option for Google employees.
"I just thought they were so beautiful and was really inspired and thought, 'I need to work here one day,' " she said.
So when Google offered Lamar a job, she was over the moon. But her new position didn't come with the pay she had envisioned. Google offered her $19 per hour -- the lowest entry level for a starting teacher there, according to Lamar. At the time, Lamar had four years of experience and a master’s degree.
"They told me that starting salaries were non-negotiable and that all teachers start out at a Level 1," she said.
Lamar said she later found out that wasn’t true. Back in March, Lamar and some of her co-workers got to talking about how much they make. That’s when she said, the only man at the center -- who started at the center around the same time, and had the same job title -- told her he was making a couple of dollars more an hour than she was.
Lamar prodded him with questions.
"Wait, wait, wait," said Lamar. "I asked, what was your education? How much experience did you have? There must be an explanation for this. He had less education and less experience than I did."
Google won’t comment about Lamar’s specific case, but said the company disagrees with the central allegations of the lawsuit filed on behalf of Lamar and three other women on Jan. 3 alleging gender pay discrimination.
Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano said in a statement: “We disagree with the central allegations of this amended lawsuit. We work really hard to create a great workplace for everyone, and to give everyone the chance to thrive here. 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.”
Lamar said looking back, she regrets that she didn’t negotiate harder for higher pay, but she also feels that Google has a responsibility to set a new standard.
"People look to Google for fair practices and best practices," she said. "If Google is falling into the same trap that all women are not fairly compensated because they're just not pushing hard enough during the interviews, they should be the ones to innovate a new practice."
In addition to this lawsuit, the U.S. Department of Labor is investigating Google for alleged gender-based pay discrimination.