[COLUMN] Should women receive equal pay for equal work?

FOUR female Google employees believed it was unfair that male colleagues with similar qualifications were consistently paid more than them and other female counterparts.  This week, the San Francisco Superior Court approved an $118 million payment by Google to settle the discrimination claims of approximately 16,000 women.

The class action lawsuit was brought under California’s Equal Pay Act, which prohibits employers from paying wage rates less than what it pays employees of the opposite sex, or of another race or ethnicity, for substantially similar work. It also alleges violations of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, which provides that employers may not discriminate against employees based on gender, race, color, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, and other protected categories.

The lawsuit demanded that Google be held accountable for systematically paying women less than men who performed substantially the same work. It further claimed that Google assigned women to lower pay levels upon hire than men with similar qualifications.

For example, a teacher at Google’s childcare center, who had a Master’s degree in early childhood education and had worked in the field for 5 years, was offered $18.51 per hour as a Level 1 employee.  Google declined to negotiate her salary.  She later learned that a male colleague with 2 years less experience, and who did not have a Master’s degree, was hired as a Level 2 worker and paid $21.00 per hour.

Google denied any gender bias in their pay and hiring practices, but a separate Department of Labor investigation into pay disparities at Google found “systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire work force.”

To help ensure that the gender-biased pay practices will not continue, the Google settlement also provides non-monetary relief to monitor and modify Google’s pay equity practices.  Beyond the $118 million payout, Google agreed to have an independent third-party expert analyze Google’s leveling-at-hiring practices, and to have an independent labor economist review Google’s pay equity studies.  Changes to the company’s leveling and pay-equity processes will be supervised by an external Settlement Monitor over the next 3 years, in order to make sure that women are not paid less than their male colleagues who have the same qualifications and job duties as they do.

A new California law may also help female employees in other companies in ensuring that they are receiving equal pay for equal work.  Starting on January 1, 2023, the new Pay Transparency Law requires California employers with at least 15 employees to: (i) disclose in all job postings the salary or hourly wage range the employer expects to pay for the posted position; (ii) provide employees with the pay scale for their current positions upon request; and (iii) maintain job tile and compensation records for all employees throughout their employment and for three years following termination of employment.

For California employers with at least 100 employees, the Pay Transparency Law additionally requires that they submit an annual report to the California Civil Rights Department that shows the mean and median pay rates for each job category, organized by gender, race and ethnicity.

With these new laws ensuring transparency of pay information, employees aware of pay disparities reflecting bias due to gender, race, or ethnicity, may follow in the footsteps of the female Google employees who demanded fair treatment: equal pay for equal work.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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The Law Offices of C. Joe Sayas, Jr. welcomes inquiries about this topic. All inquiries are confidential and at no-cost. You can contact the office at (818) 291-0088 or visit www.joesayaslaw.com. [For more than 25 years, C. Joe Sayas, Jr., Esq. successfully recovered wages and other monetary damages for thousands of employees and consumers. He was named Top Labor & Employment Attorney in California by the Daily Journal, selected as Super Lawyer by the Los Angeles Magazine for 11 years, and is a past Presidential Awardee for Outstanding Filipino Overseas.]

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