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Google to pay $118 million to settle gender discrimination lawsuit

The class-action suit covers about 15,500 women

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Google is set to pay $118 million to settle a class-action gender discrimination lawsuit that includes around 15,500 women (via Bloomberg). As noted in the settlement’s press release, Google is also required to have an independent labor economist evaluate its hiring practices and pay equity studies.

The lawsuit first emerged in 2017 after three women filed a complaint accusing the company of underpaying female workers in violation of California’s Equal Pay Act, citing a wage gap of around $17,000. The complaint also alleges Google locks women into lower career tracks, leading to less pay and lower bonuses when compared to their male counterparts. The plaintiffs won class-action status last year.

Google’s treatment of workers has been the target of scrutiny more than once. Last year, Google agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed the company underpaid female engineers and overlooked Asian job applicants. California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is also investigating the company over complaints of potential harassment and discrimination against Black female employees.

“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,” Holly Pease, a plaintiff in the case, said in a statement. “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.”

The terms of the settlement still need to be approved by a judge in a hearing that will take place on June 21st. “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,” Google said In a statement to The Verge. The company added that it’s “absolutely committed to paying, hiring and leveling all employees fairly and equally,” and that it makes “upward adjustments” if it finds a pay disparity between male and female employees.

A number of similar lawsuits targeting pay gaps have surfaced within the last decade, with class-action gender discrimination suits against Microsoft and Twitter failing to gain traction. Oracle is also facing a class-action lawsuit alleging unequal pay, but according to Bloomberg Law, the group of women suing the company will likely lose class-action status after a judge said a class with 3,000 employees and 125 job classifications would be “unmanageable to proceed to trial.” Other tech companies, like Apple and Riot Games, have also faced accusations of pay inequality.

Update June 12th, 12:39PM ET: Updated to add a statement from Google.