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Judge limits salary data Google has to give Labor Department

The federal government had asked for nearly two decades of data in a gender equality case. A judge called that "unreasonable" and "unduly burdensome."

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Google won a victory over the Labor Department. 

CNET

A judge handed Google a victory in its spat with the US Department of Labor over employee salary data. 

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), an agency of the US Labor Department, has been investigating Google's salary records for any signs of gender inequality. The government agency in January sued Google to compel it to hand over certain compensation data as part of an audit to ensure that the company, a federal contractor, is honoring equal employment laws. If Google doesn't hand over the data, the department says, it should lose its government contracts. 

The Labor Department said last month that the search giant systematically pays its female employees less than it pays men. The company strongly denies that assertion.

A judge on Friday ruled the Labor Department's request for nearly two decades of data -- including personal information on over 25,000 Google employees -- is "unreasonable in that it is over-broad, intrusive on employee privacy, unduly burdensome, and insufficiently focused on obtaining the relevant information." 

Instead, the judge said the OFCCP initially can request information for up to 5,000 Google employees, and may request information for up to 3,000 more. The Labor Department also has to limit the time frame for salary data it's collecting. 

"If OFCCP wants to correct Google's policies going forward while compensating adversely affected employees who worked for Google during performance of the June 2, 2014 contract, it need not look back 19 years to 1998," the judge wrote. "It can achieve the same ends going back far fewer years."

Google in May argued that the DOL's request was "burdensome." Eileen Naughton, Google vice president of people operations, said in a blog post dated Monday that Google has already provided more than 329,000 documents and more than 1.7 million data points, including detailed compensation information, in response to OFCCP's 18 different data requests. The two sides "reached an impasse," she said, when the OFCCP demanded employee compensation and other job information dating back 15 years, as well as "extensive" employee personal data and contact information.

"We were concerned that these requests went beyond the scope of what was relevant to this specific audit, and posed unnecessary risks to employees' privacy," she said.  

The Labor Department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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