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Over 60 Women Are Mulling Legal Action Against Google for Gender Discrimination

© REUTERS / Mike BlakeThe Google logo is pictured atop an office building in Irvine, California, US, August 7, 2017.
The Google logo is pictured atop an office building in Irvine, California, US, August 7, 2017. - Sputnik International
An internal Google memo arguing against gender diversity within the company provoked outrage among staff and the public alike, leading to the sacking of the author. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange offered the pariah a job - but over 60 current and former female Google employees are considering a class action lawsuit against the search giant.

James Damore, the now former Google employee, who wrote the controversial note, was dismissed August 7 for breaching company rules.

While the initial response to the note on social media, which said gender disparities at the tech titanic were attributable to biological differences between men and women, was one of outrage, after his firing, conservative and alt-right commentators fought back with a vengeance with memes distorting the "Google" logo to spell "Goolag," associating the firm with Soviet prison camps.

Commentator Ben Shapiro dubbed Google managers "corporate fascists" and suggested Damore should "immediately declare himself a woman" and sue Google for gender discrimination.

Alt-right crowdfunding platform WeSearchr, which set up a fundraiser for the software engineer, claims Damore is reviewing options for legal action against Google. As of August 9, US$21,214 has been pledged, with some donating up to US$1,500.

However, the ex-engineer may not be unemployed very long. On August 8 Julian Assange offered him a job, while also promoting his 2014 book When Google Met WikiLeaks. Among other exposures, the work describes the "special relationship" between Google, Hillary Clinton and the US State Department.

Google is yet to comment on any of the backlash, although it has been compelled to respond to news that more than 60 current and former employees are considering bringing a class-action lawsuit on the basis of sexism and gender-based pay disparities at the company.  

Fault Lines
Did Google Go Too Far in Firing Employee Over Diversity Memo?
The prospective claimants contend they earn — or earned — less than men at Google despite equal qualifications and comparable position, and struggled to advance their careers at Google due to a "culture that is hostile to women."

If the case comes to pass, it would build on an existing action brought by the US Department of Labor (DOL), which argues Google systematically underpays women.

Google vehemently denies its salaries are discriminatory, although attorneys for the group said there are clear disparities and prejudices that hurt women at the Mountain View company, with women being channeled to levels and positions that pay less than men with similar education and experience.

Andrea Johnson, a fellow at the US National Women's Law Center, says recent years have seen individuals who hold discriminatory and hostile biases against women feeling "emboldened" to be "very open and act upon" those beliefs.

"Women are also feeling emboldened to speak up against harassment and discrimination they are facing, which in turn is empowering other women to speak up for their rights as well. Discrimination in the workplace is illegal — this isn't about political correctness, this is about treating people with equal qualifications equally, and paying them equally. A class-action lawsuit like this would help expose the culture of sexism that's pervasive in tech. I can see it motivating women in other companies to speak up," Ms. Johnson told Sputnik.

Despite similar positions and qualifications, some women claim they make around US$40,000 less than male counterparts in salaries, bonuses and stock options on average, despite doing the same work. Some earn up to two-thirds less, and/or have smaller incomes than staff they effectively manage. Of the group who may sue Google, about half still work for the company.

A spokesperson for Google said there would always be differences in salary, however, in reference to the women considering legal action, the spokesperson said there would always be disparities in pay based on location, role and performance, but internal remuneration policies were blind to gender — and stressed 60 people was a "really small sample size."

Nonetheless, the prospective litigants' allegations would tend to support the DOL's claims of "routine, systemic" wage discrepancies between men and women at the search giant, at levels "extreme even [for the tech] industry."

While the Department has not released details of its analysis or the scale of the pay discrepancy it claims to have identified, investigators indicate they have found up to seven standard deviations between pay for men and women across the company, a ratio that offers a one in 100 million chance of occurring randomly or by chance. Even two standard deviations are considered statistically significant by DOL rules.

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