Google is to pay $118 million (£97.7m) to settle an equal pay lawsuit covering thousands of female employees in the US who argued they were paid less than male colleagues.
The settlement in Ellis v Google LLC covers an estimated 15,500 women who worked in 236 job positions in California since September 2013.
Independent experts will also assess the tech giant’s “levelling at hire” practices and pay equity studies. This work will be supervised by an external settlement monitor over the next three years.
The five-year long legal battle centred on claims that Google failed to pay men and women doing substantially similar roles equally.
The four lead claimants included Kelly Ellis, a software engineer who worked at Google for four years; Holly Pease, who held numerous technical leadership roles over 10 years; Kelli Wisuri, who held various sales and operations roles for two-and-a-half years; and Heidi Lamar, a preschool and infant/toddler teacher who worked at Google’s onsite childcare facility for four years.
Equal pay in the UK
The initial lawsuit said Larmer was paid $18.51 an hour, while a male counterpart with fewer qualifications and less experience received $21 an hour.
Google was accused last year of paying its female employees $17,000 a year less than male staff doing the same job. The claimants had originally sought $600 million in damages.
The court is yet to grant final settlement approval. If approved, a third-party administrator will distribute settlement amounts based on an objective formula to each person covered by the claim.
Pease said: “As a woman who’s spent her entire career in the tech industry, I’m optimistic that the actions Google has agreed to take as part of this settlement will ensure more equity for women.
“Google, since its founding, has led the tech industry. They also have an opportunity to lead the charge to ensure inclusion and equity for women in tech.”
Jim Finberg, a lawyer at Altshuler Berzon, said: “Google has long been a technology leader. We are delighted that in this settlement agreement and order Google is also affirming its commitment to be a leader in ensuring pay equity and equal employment opportunity for all of their employees.”
A spokesperson for Google told US business news site Insider: “While we strongly believe in the equity of our policies and practices, after nearly five years of litigation, both sides agreed that resolution of the matter, without any admission or findings, was in the best interest of everyone, and we’re very pleased to reach this agreement.
“We are absolutely committed to paying, hiring and leveling all employees fairly and equally and for the past nine years we have run a rigorous pay equity analysis to make sure salaries, bonuses and equity awards are fair.”
Last year Google was ordered to pay $3.84m following allegations of gender and race discrimination.