News

Department of Labor sues Google to obtain employee data

Google: Unfilled requests are either too broad or seek confidential information

The U.S. Department of Labor sued Google Wednesday in a dispute about how much employee information the technology giant must provide for an evaluation of its compliance with anti-discrimination laws.

The administrative lawsuit against Mountain View-based Google was filed with the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges in Washington, D.C., Wednesday.

If the agency wins an order requiring Google to provide the disputed data, and Google refuses, the company could be barred from receiving future federal contracts and have current contracts canceled.

The lawsuit says the department requested the information as part of a routine evaluation of Google's compliance with equal opportunity laws, and that Google was randomly selected for the study.

But Google allegedly "has persisted in its refusal to produce" certain items, despite repeated attempts by the Labor Department to obtain a voluntary handover of the data, the lawsuit claims.

The missing information is part of a larger request for "snapshots" of employee job and salary history as of Sept. 1, 2014, and Sept. 1, 2015, plus names and contact information of the workers, the lawsuit says.

Google said in a statement it has given the department "hundreds of thousands of records over the last year," but maintained the remaining unfilled requests are either too broad or seek confidential employee data, such as private contact information.

"We hope to continue working with (the department) to resolve this matter," the statement said.

"We're very committed to our affirmative action obligations and to improving the diversity of our workforce," the company stated.

The Labor Department says it is entitled to the information because Google has been a federal contractor, for example in a more than $600,000 contract in 2014 to provide advertising and integrated marketing programs.

Several U.S. laws, taken together, forbid job discrimination by government contractors on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran.

"Like other federal contractors, Google has a legal obligation to provide relevant information requested in the course of a routine compliance evaluation," said department compliance program director Thomas Dowd.

"Despite many opportunities to produce this information voluntarily, Google has refused to do so. We filed this lawsuit so we can obtain the information we need to complete our evaluation," he said in a statement.

The lawsuit asks for an administrative law judge's order requiring Google to provide the information, or, if Google refuses, an order canceling the company's current federal contracts and prohibiting any future contracts until it complies.

An administrative law judge's ruling can be appealed to the Labor Department's Administrative Review Board.

Comments

12 people like this
Posted by MP
a resident of another community
on Jan 5, 2017 at 3:02 pm

AGE DISCRIMINATION


7 people like this
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2017 at 3:49 pm

The Business Man is a registered user.

As one trained in Human Resources, this appears to be an attempt to prevent statistical analysis that could indicate disparate impact in employment at Google.

But the real problem is that disparate impact only means that there was NO intent to discriminate. It can occur nonetheless but it may NOT be by design.

But Google attempting to withhold the information is a violation of the OFCCP compliance rules and shows that the issue could actually consist of disparate treatment.

This kind of discrimination IS by design and INTENDED to discriminate.

Or at the very least, Google INTENDS to withhold potential evidence of Disparate Impact, which changes the classification from impact to treatment.

Given that this information is readily available to Google, the OFCCP regulations are clear, Google IS a FEDERAL CONTRACTOR UNDER THE LAW, this decision seems to be a very poor one. I wonder if this decision will impact on the plans of Google with regards to consideration with the City of Mountain View.




12 people like this
Posted by Born the same year as Jobs
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jan 5, 2017 at 11:38 pm

Did the author neglect to mention age? Because it's become at least 10x harder to find employment as an engineer since I turned 60. I now make minimum wage.


3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of another community
on Jan 6, 2017 at 3:21 am

Doesn't Google provide the Federal Government with W-2 forms for every employee?
Keyed to social security numbers, that should be all the employment and compensation data necessary. Race, ethnicity, sex, date/place of birth, citizenship status and contact information are all included on the social security number application form. If the government wishes to track additional discriminators, then that information should be requested on IRS form 1040, like right below where it asks whether we are single or married or blind. Having it on the 1040 would remind us every year of how we are being sliced and diced.


1 person likes this
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2017 at 2:38 pm

The Business Man is a registered user.

There are very specific rules for a federal contractor.

First, quarterly summaries detailing only race and gender are required under the law.

Second, every federal contract includes a provision providing random audits of complete demographic characteristics are required, these include the entire list of protected or underrepresented groups defined under the law.

The OFCCP is the agency that is responsible to enforce federal contract practices. It has no access to either the IRS or the Social Security Administration databases. The Congress prohibited that sharing of information.

Now if Google chooses to, they can terminate their federal contract to remove such requirements.

That would imply that they have some information that would question hiring practice within it. Especially because their staffing programs are computerized and accessible almost instantaneously. But it is not an admission of guilt.


4 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Willowgate
on Jan 6, 2017 at 11:32 pm

I don't want my employer to share contact information with anyone. Do federal contractors have to share that info or is the U.S. Department of Labor just trying to get more than they are entitled to.


3 people like this
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2017 at 1:42 am

The Business Man is a registered user.

Here is a good summary of what a OFCCP audit would be like:

Audit: What should I expect from a Department of Labor audit?

Sep 12, 2012

Employers should keep in mind that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) can audit employers at any time, although the most common reason for a DOL audit is a complaint from an employee. The DOL has also targeted employers in low-wage industries for wage and hour violations, particularly in the areas of agriculture, day cares, restaurants, garment manufacturing, guard services, health care, hotels and motels, janitorial services, and temporary help. By understanding the audit process and following the guidance below, employers will be better prepared to handle a DOL audit.

1. The DOL typically provides little advance notice of an audit. However, you can request time to gather records. Typically, the amount of time an employer will have will depend on the auditor.

2. Contact the auditor to find out specific information about the audit. Key questions to ask are the focus of the investigation (e.g., overtime pay compliance, exempt vs. nonexempt classification, minimum wage compliance), the time period for records the auditor wants to view, and the names of any employees that may be interviewed.

3. Gather the records in accordance with guidance provided by the auditor. Be prepared to provide documentation related to the company compensation policies and procedures. Keep track of exactly what information was provided. Do not provide records other than what the auditor requests.


4. Designate one or two company representatives to work with the auditor. Some employers choose to designate their company’s legal counsel; other employers will designate senior managers. The representatives will have the duty to provide documents requested,arrange for any additional records to be provided to the auditor (if necessary) and coordinate employee interviews.

5. During the audit, be courteous to and cooperative with the auditor. It is a good practice to provide a quiet area for the auditor to work in.

6. At the end of the audit, ask the auditor to provide a summary of the results of the investigation. This information will help an employer review options for resolutions if any violations are found. If violations are found, employers are encouraged to consult legal counsel before any settlements are reached with the DOL.


To be proactive, employers should consider a self-audit, which consists of the following steps:
 Review job descriptions.
 Understand the differences between federal and state laws and ensure that the laws are correctly applied to employees.
 Ensure that FLSA classifications are correct.
 Keep accurate payroll records.
 Apply policies consistently.
 Make sure all records are complete and work to resolve any inconsistencies.
 Determine how to address any areas of concern identified via the self-audit.

SHRM’s toolkit “Conducting HR Audits” has helpful information about the HR audit process.( Web Link

A Dept of Labor audit is not that intrusive, in fact the claim made by Google doesn't seem to make sense to me. And I taught a MBA graduate course at San Jose State University regarding managing diversity in federal contract compliance even though I was an undergraduate at the time.

I was supervised by a Tenured Professor to make sure my work wasn't in error. But I never had any errors that the Phd professor ever corrected, I was careful to review my course plan with him before the class to prevent any problems "on stage" in the class.

It would appear that Google must be trying to hide something, but I do not know what it is.

Oh well.


4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2017 at 6:15 am

Do race and gender mean anything anymore when employees self-identify? I believe Facebook now has over 70 different gender definitions. I suspect there are at least as many races, or maybe just the human race. Might be more illuminating to ask what languages one's grandparents spoke.


1 person likes this
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2017 at 5:22 pm

The Business Man is a registered user.

Well as long as the reports are accurate and consistant, Facebook can report their statistics any way they wish. The only thing that is required is that the best effort is made to ensure no under reports are involved.


Like this comment
Posted by @musical
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 8, 2017 at 11:59 am

Facts do not matter in fishing expeditions like this. The bureaucrats in the Dept of Labor have already reached their conclusion and are trying to extort data from private business to hammer them with.

Hopefully the incoming Trump administration will put a stop to nonsense like this.


5 people like this
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2017 at 10:43 pm

The Business Man is a registered user.

Technically, it is not a fishing expedition.

It was a random audit that every business consents to when being a federal contractor.

The business knew about it beforehand, and agreed to those conditions.

Where was there a conclusion made yet also? You are assuming that the DOL will find a problem. Remember, there has been no claim of any problems regarding staffing at this time. Only that Google has in fact breached the federal contract. So it is logical that the DOL is concerned.


4 people like this
Posted by SunnyvaleResident
a resident of another community
on Jan 9, 2017 at 10:26 am

Why just focus on Google? I recently interviewed for a job in Cisco's Core Software group, 4 of the 5 interviewers were south Asian. The building I was in had been converted to an open collaborative workspace so I was able to see many of the employees. I'd estimate the workforce in that building was 90% Asian and 80% male. I also interviewed at Fortinet in Sunnyvale and observed similar demographics.


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