What can organisations learn from the Google Gender Discrimination Pay Lawsuit?

Will Clayton
27 July 2022

In an ideal world all employees  should be paid the same wage for the same role within the same company, regardless of gender. Not a ground-breaking concept. JFK signed it into law in the USA as long ago as 1963. The UK followed suit in 1970. Yet still, some 50-60 years later, some global corporations can’t seem to get it right. Surely Google,  were paying all genders the same salary for the same job?  According to a recent article from Sky News, that is not the case.

It has been announced that Google will pay $118 million to settle a five-year law-suit brought by a large number of their female employees. The employees, who all worked in California, also alleged that Google leads women onto lower-paid career paths with smaller bonuses.

For a company that reported fourth-quarter advertising revenue of $61.2 Billion in 2021, $118 million may not break the bank, but what is surprising in this case is the numbers. 15,500 female staff felt that they were being paid less than their male counterparts. A number that means this cannot be brushed off as an error or rare anomaly but suggests a cultural problem.  Will the news of the equal pay settlement cause the world to stop using Google? Unlikely.

Google are not alone, a deeper dive will show that other large companies have similar cases..  Asda, for one example is defending equal pay claims in the UK brought by some 35,000 current and former employees which could potentially be worth some £8bn in back pay and compensation.

So if the well-resourced big corporations can let themselves down because they don’t do the obvious well, UK SMEs are just as vulnerable to the same risks under the same laws.  One thing that is certain is that employees at all levels including senior executives regularly  check and compare their pay and bonuses with their colleagues and are prepared to complain.  Those that do raise genuine complaints with their employers are protected from retaliatory victimisation under s.27 of the Equality Act 2010 within England and Wales.

The message is simple, if Google is not immune to these disputes, then neither are you. Disputes of this nature are difficult and complex. The time lost, stress and reputational impact can be devastating.  As a specialist employment lawyer, I help organisations identity and manage their labour law risks. This includes paying everyone equally for doing the same job unless there is a valid legal justification to maintain different pay grades.

For expert employment law advice or representation that is tailored to your business get in touch.

You can read more about this case here.

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