DOL Says Company Wrongfully Forces Employees into Silence about Workplace Inequality
Silicon Valley giant Google is the subject of a Department of Labor audit, looking into whether or not the tech company engages in illegal workplace discrimination. The company is a federal contractor and is required to comply with federal equal opportunity laws. A preliminary review of the company’s compensation structure indicated that the company had a practice of compensating male employees at higher rates than female employees.
As part of its investigation into the potential pay inequities, the Department of Labor asked Google to produce compensation data. In January, 2017, after the company failed to honor that request, the DOL brought a lawsuit in federal court, demanding that the documents be produced. A judge ordered the company to comply, but DOL regulators then ran into another hurdle—it seems that all Google employees have signed confidentiality agreements that prohibit them from speaking to the government about such matters as discrimination in pay.
According to Labor Department investigators, many of the Google employees that they have interviewed during the investigation have been reluctant to disclose information, saying they fear they will be in violation of their confidentiality agreement and, accordingly, subject to termination. Google has insisted that its employees can “talk freely about workplace matters…without fear of repercussion.” The court has ordered Google to provide DOL investigators with 2014 salary records and contact information for as many as 8,000 Google employees.
The DOL regulators have some recent history to support their concerns. In April, 2017, Google was named as a defendant in a National Labor Relations Board complaint, which alleged that the company used its confidentiality agreements to systematically infringe on employee rights, threatening employees with termination and other legal action for “engaging in protected…activities.”
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