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Department of Labor sues Google for withholding data in anti-discrimination audit

Department of Labor sues Google for withholding data in anti-discrimination audit

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Google has been sued by the Department of Labor for withholding data in an ongoing audit. In a complaint filed today, the Department says Google refused to provide compensation data as part of an anti-discrimination audit, and seeks a court order forcing the company to comply.

The case stems from Google’s federal contracting business, which provides advertising and cloud computing services to a number of federal agencies. As a federal contractor with more than $10,000 in business, it is subject to specific rules against racial or religious discrimination, and must cooperate with government audits to ensure that it complies with those rules.

The lawsuit doesn’t allege that Google actually engaged in discrimination, only that it dragged its heels as the Department of Labor conducted the necessary audit. According to the complaint, officers launched the audit in September 2015, requesting a series of compensation snapshots drawn from current Google employees that could be compared over time. A few months later, Google replied with a letter declining to produce the some of the data.

Google says it withheld that data for privacy reasons, but has produced hundreds of thousands of records over the course of the audit.

“We’ve worked hard to comply with the OFCCP’s current audit,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “However, the handful of OFCCP requests that are the subject of the complaint are overbroad in scope, or reveal confidential data, and we've made this clear to the OFCCP, to no avail.  These requests include thousands of employees’ private contact information which we safeguard rigorously. We hope to continue working with OFCCP to resolve this matter.”

Such audits can often unearth evidence that leads to larger anti-discrimination suits. In September, Palantir was sued by the Department of Labor for discriminating against Asian job applicants. Palantir has denied the allegations.

5:20PM ET: Updated with comment from Google.