A lawsuit that accuses Google of pay discrimination based on gender bias was granted class-action status on Thursday.
The lawsuit, filed in 2017 in San Francisco, alleges Google violated the California Equal Pay act by underpaying women who did the same job as men. The class-action certification means the plaintiffs in the case will be allowed to represent more than 10,800 women claiming pay bias against Google.
"Google has discriminated and continues to discriminate against its female employees by systematically paying them lower compensation than Google pays to male employees performing substantially similar work under similar working conditions," the lawsuit said.
Kelly Dermody, a lawyer representing the women, praised the class-action order. "This is a significant day for women at Google and in the technology sector, and we are so proud of our brave clients for leading the way," she said in a statement. "This order shows that it is critical that companies prioritize paying women equitably over spending money fighting them in litigation." The news was earlier reported by Bloomberg.
"This means the judge agreed we can sue as a class, rather than each individual woman needing to sue for relief," Kelly Ellis, one of the plaintiffs in the case, tweeted on Thursday. "This is HUGE."
The development in the case comes as Silicon Valley faces a reckoning over gender and diversity. Last week, five women filed separate lawsuits against Amazon, alleging a range of employment law violations, including equal pay violations, harassment, discrimination and retaliation. Elsewhere at Google, the company's artificial intelligence division has been dogged by turmoil after the high profile ouster of researchers that had called Google out over diversity issues and bias.
Google on Thursday defended its salary practices. "We strongly believe in the equity of our policies and practices," a spokesman said in a statement. "If we find any differences in proposed pay, including between men and women, we make upward adjustments to remove them before new compensation goes into effect."
Google has been embroiled in other battles over equal pay in the last few months. In February, the search giant agreed pay almost $2.6 million to settle claims with the US Department of Labor for "systemic compensation and hiring discrimination" at offices in California and Washington. The department said it found pay disparities that affected Google female engineering employees, as well as female and Asian job applicants. As part of the settlement, Google agreed to provide $1.3 million in back pay and interest to almost 2,600 female engineers, and $1.2 million to almost 3,000 applicants who weren't hired.