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Google schools US government about gender pay gap

The web giant responds to Labor Department allegations of a pay gap by explaining that gender isn't considered.

Google says there's no way female employees are "systematically" paid less than their male counterparts.
Google says there's no way female employees are "systematically" paid less than their male counterparts.
Kimihiro Hoshino/AFP/Getty Images

Google wants the US government to know that it takes gender pay equity very seriously -- and is baffled by the contention that a gap exists at the tech giant.

In responding to allegations lodged by the US Department of Labor that Google systematically pays its female employees less than it pays men, the search giant said in a blog post that employee gender doesn't factor into compensation decisions. Google described the process that it arrives at suggested compensation as "extremely scientific and robust," relying on the employee's role, job level and location, as well as recent performance ratings.

What isn't considered in determining pay is whether the employee is male or female -- that information is masked out to those making the compensation decisions, Eileen Naughton, Google vice president for People Operations, explained in the post late Tuesday.

"The analysts who calculate the suggested amounts do not have access to employees' gender data," Naughton wrote. "An employee's manager has limited discretion to adjust the suggested amount, providing they cite a legitimate adjustment rationale.

"Our pay equity model then looks at employees in the same job categories, and analyzes their compensation to confirm that the adjusted amount shows no statistically significant differences between men's and women's compensation," she wrote.

Naughton's blog post is the latest salvo in a legal spat between the company and the Labor Department, which hit a boiling point when the department filed a lawsuit against Google in January seeking compensation data as part of a routine audit of Google, as required of federal contractors. Google responded that it has turned over hundreds of thousands of documents to the department in the past year as part of the audit but has withheld some requested documents to protect the privacy of its employees.

The pay gap is one of many diversity issues confronting companies in the tech industry. Silicon Valley has faced tough questions about the treatment of women and minorities, and the industry continues to struggle with recruitment, retention and promotion.

On average, 30 percent of the tech industry workforce is female, but studies indicate that more diverse teams, in terms of gender and race, show greater creativity and experimentation -- and get better results.

Representatives of the Labor Department declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.

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