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DOL Still Searching Google for Documents Over Compliance

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Mountain View, CA: An administrative lawsuit over allegations of pay disparity and gender discrimination against women involving the California-based Google Inc. (Google) translates to a feud between the search engine juggernaut and the US Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (DOL, OFCCP).

Google has allegedly been dragging its feet in the required provision of data and evidence as requested by the DOL and the OFCCP. Google counters that recent statements to the media by a member of the federal agency’s legal counsel suggest the federal agencies have all they need.

According to Court documents, the trouble began in September, 2015 when Google, which maintains headquarters at Mountain View in the Golden State, was randomly selected by the DOL and OFCCP for a compliance evaluation. Enterprises providing services to government under contract are required to abide by a robust basket of rules and regulations, in order to remain in compliance as a federal contractor. Federal agencies routinely conduct random checks to ensure compliance, with formal requests for documentation as standard practice.

The feds had given Google until the first of June, 2016 to comply. Google, according to Court records associated with the discrimination lawsuit not only missed the deadline, but communicated with the DOL on June 17 of last year that it would be refusing to provide the requested documents.

Thus the DOL turned to the Courts, filing an administrative lawsuit against Google in an attempt to force Google to comply, on December 29 of last year. In announcing the lawsuit this past January, the DOL stressed that the release of requested documents is a mandatory aspect of the random selection process for compliance review under the law.

A hearing, conducted on April 7 of this year, served to inflate the rhetoric even further. At the hearing, according to Court records, DOL Pacific Region Regional Director Janette Wipper reportedly said in comments to the Court that the DOL found systematic compensation disparities against women. Google denied the allegation, indicating it conducted regular and thorough analyses of pay equities and had found no gender-based pay gap within their organization.

Wipper’s comments were reported in The Guardian, which reached out to Regional solicitor for the DOL, Janet Herold, for additional comment. The Guardian subsequently reported Herold’s statement that the OFCCP had “received compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters,” at Mountain View.

Herold added that the ongoing analysis on the part of the government, “at this point indicates that discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry.”

Google, which had moved to have the administrative lawsuit thrown out, pointed to the comments made at the hearing and subsequent comments given to the media, and suggested the agencies had all the information they needed to proceed with a compliance review, thus no further information was needed, and the lawsuit was meritless.

However, in a recent ruling Administrative Law Judge Steven B. Berlin disagreed.

“Google asserts that OFCCP wants to use the broad investigative authority it is accorded in compliance reviews to circumvent the more constrained access to Google’s information it will get in formal discovery,” Judge Berlin opined.

He added that while it may have been misguided to make statements to the media while an ongoing administrative court case was active – and admonishing those individuals for doing so – he nonetheless found no ethical infraction involved, thus any efforts to push back against the federal agency’s entitlement for additional information, was without merit.

The case is In the Matter of Office Federal Contract Compliance Programs, US Department of Labor v. Google Inc., Case No. 2017-OFC-0004, before the US Department of Labor Office of Administrative Law Judges.

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