"We found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce," Janette Wipper, a Labor Department regional director, testified in court in San Francisco on Friday.
Wipper's words have been supported by those of Janet Herold, regional solicitor for the department.
"The investigation is not complete, but at this point the department has received compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters," Herold said, adding that the payment disparities in Google are "quite extreme, even in this industry."
The department filed a lawsuit demanding Google provide its payment data in January. According to the media, Google is a federal contractor, which means it is required to allow the Labor Department to inspect and copy records and information about its compliance with equal opportunity laws.
The tech giant has repeatedly opposed giving up the data; it took a formal lawsuit from the Labor Department for the company to provide "hundreds of thousands of records," according to the company's spokesman, to the government. The spokesman underscored that the requests outlined in the complaint were "overbroad," revealed confidential information or violated employees' privacy.
"We want to understand what's causing the disparity," the department representative said.
The company's attorney, Lisa Barnett Sween, testified in opening remarks that the Labor Deparment's request constituted a "fishing expedition that has absolutely no relevance to the compliance review." According to media reports, she said the request was an unconstitutional violation of the company's fourth amendment right to protection from unreasonable searches.
However, the department remains suspicious. Marc Pilotin, a Labor Department attorney, said: "For some reason or another, Google wants to hide the pay-related information."
The disparities claimed by the government are yet to be proven before a court. In the meantime, the company denies all allegations and claims payment between genders is equal and based on professional qualities rather than on gender or race.
The conflict between the department and Google is particularly interesting in light of US President Donald Trump's reversal of some Obama-era female workers' rights protections. If Google really practices payment discrimination, Trump's decision effectively plays in favor of the tech giant and against the department. Google Trump's presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, and Silicon Valley in general was one of the main sources of funding for Clinton campaign.
If Google representatives are right in calling the lawsuit "politically motivated," the politics are getting really awkward around here.