The Labor Department claimed Friday that Google has fostered an “extreme” gender pay gap across its entire workforce.
The bombshell accusation stems from an ongoing investigation into the search giant’s payroll practices, The Guardian first reported. It also comes three days after the company sang its own praises on Equal Pay Day.
A department official testified in a San Francisco courtroom this week that enough “compelling evidence” had already been found to make a case for systemic discrimination. The agency first filed suit against Google in January in a bid to force the company to turn over salary data in accordance with anti-discrimination laws.
The governments analysis at this point indicates that discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry, Labor Department regional director Janette Wipper said in court Friday, per The Guardian‘s report.
The company claimed Tuesday that it had closed its gender pay gap worldwide in a tweet commemorating Equal Pay Day.
The charge comes as reports of Uber’s systemic sexism towards female employees have yet again thrown the tech industry’s gender bias problems into sharp relief.
Men far outnumber women in Silicon Valley particularly in lucrative technical jobs and positions of power and a number of lawsuits and personal testimonies in recent years have pointed towards a slanted playing field that enforces that norm.
But a full-fledged takedown at one of the biggest companies in the industry and the world could be explosive.
Google’s latest diversity report revealed that only 31 percent of its employees are female. Women hold just one in five technical roles and a quarter of leadership posts.
The Labor Department has been collecting salary information from Google since late 2015. The company was forthcoming with several of the requested data sets and, at one point, allowed regulators to interview employees at its Mountain View, California headquarters.
But the company took issue with a follow-up order that called for detailed profiles of each employee, including prior job history and salaries, personal contact information, and competing offers, according to the tech law blog The Recorder.
Google said in a statement at the time of the suit’s filing that it refused the request because it was “overbroad in scope” and a breach of workers’ privacy.
A lawyer representing Google alleged during Friday’s hearing that the request was a violation of Fourth Amendment rights, which protects citizens from unreasonable searches.
The company didn’t immediately respond to our request for comment.
The Labor Department is entitled to all of this information because Google is technically a federal contractor.
The agency has asked the court to suspend all of the company’s government contracts and bar it from any in the future if it doesn’t comply.