Google Told to Hand Over a Narrower Set of Pay Data

Labor Department sides with Google

Labor Department sides with Google

In a big win for Google, administrative law judge Steven Berlin has spared the tech giant from handing over information of over 25,000 employees to the US Department of Labor (DOL), which has accused the company of systematic compensation disparities.

Google has won a legal battle against the Department of Labor's Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), which demanded a list of its employee data.

A judge on Friday ruled the Labor Department's request for almost two decades of data - including personal information on over 25,000 Google employees - is "unreasonable in that it is over-broad, intrusive on employee privacy, unduly burdensome, and insufficiently focused on obtaining the relevant information".

Regarding contact data, the judge wrote: "Together, this should give OFCCP ability to contact - confidentially and without Google's knowledge - all employees whom OFCCP believes are likely to have information relevant to the investigation (plus others whom OFCCP randomly selects), keep those employees hidden in plain sight, and at the same time protect the private contact information of as many Google employees as possible".

The department's broader request "creates an unreasonable burden on Google and its employees", Berlin said.

The judge cited that the request made by the agency was "intrusive on employee privacy, unduly burdensome and insufficiently focused" as the OFCCP couldn't justify their request for the amount of info they wanted.

"OFFCP has already collected for 21,114 employees information such as name, date of birth, place of birth, citizenship status, visa status, salary and stock grants", Berlin wrote in his decision.

"We were concerned that these requests went beyond the scope of what was relevant to this specific audit, and posed unnecessary risks to employees' privacy", she said. "This Office (OALJ) has been hacked".

Google denies having paid women less than their male counterparts.

A spokesman for the Department of Labor, meanwhile, did not immediately respond Sunday night to an email about its next step. The company's lawyers argued last month the Labor Department might have violated ethics rules by talking to the press about the federal investigation. "Contractors will be held to their promise to let [DoL] fully audit their employment practices", said Janet Herold, the department's regional solicitor.

"Assuming the recommended decision becomes final, we'll comply with the remainder of the order, and provide the much more limited data set of information the judge approved, including the contact information for a smaller sample of up to 8,000 employees", Google said.