Considering how much time and resources Google devotes to collecting data from its users, it seems odd for the tech giant to claim a request for data on how they compensate their employees is overly burdensome.
Google had taken on millions of dollars in federal contract work before it was selected in September 2015 for a mandatory equal opportunity compliance evaluation in regards to the company’s government contracts. Because there are federal laws in place that require employers to pay all their workers equally and fairly (regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, etc.), the Department of Labor (DOL) maintains an Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which ensures the companies performing contract work for the government are abiding by the federal compensation laws.
Google has refused to provide the relevant data pertaining to how it pays its employees, claiming the vast amount of information requested would require too much time and money for them to compile all the data. Google claims the information the DOL is requesting comprises more than 1.3 million data points and hundreds of thousands of pages of information. It also alleges much of the data the DOL is requesting is not relevant to how Google compensates its employees and to provide it would be to compromise the confidentiality of their workers.
Google did hand over some documents earlier in the year, but when it refused to hand over the names and contact information of more than 21,000 employees, the DOL sued the tech company to try to force them to provide the information.
The DOL said testimony in the case made it clear that Google could afford to provide the information without going broke. In fact, the agency pointed out that Google was probably paying more in attorneys’ fees to defend their right not to turn over the information than the company would have had to pay to compile the data in the first place.
The DOL also pointed out that the cost alone does not make the its request for the relevant information unconstitutional, saying Google agreed to cooperate with the DOL’s investigation when the company took on government contract work worth millions of dollars.
That said, Google did note people working for the tech company had allegedly already spent more than 2,000 hours working to provide the DOL with the requested data, and that to provide the detailed employee information the DOL was requesting would allegedly require an additional 400-500 hours and an estimated half a million dollars.
Google insists money is not the problem, saying their refusal to provide the requested information has more to do with the request being overly burdensome and unreasonable. Google also insisted that accepting government work did not qualify as waiving its constitutional rights.
Google is not the first employer to refuse to hand over such information. Although the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled, in a separate case, that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) could force employers to hand over personally identifiable information about their workers, the decision was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which reversed the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling.
However the judge rules in the DOL’s current case against Google, an appeal to a higher court is likely, which means this won’t necessarily be the end of this dispute.
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