Google to review pay practices after allegedly underpaying temp workers

The search giant may owe more than $100 million in back salaries.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
2 min read

Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. 

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google on Friday said it'll review its pay and compliance practices, after reports that the tech giant has illegally underpaid temporary staff working in dozens of countries. 

The company had been aware for years that it was skirting pay parity laws in some countries that required temp workers to be paid equally to full-time staff, but Google put off correcting the situation because it feared drawing negative attention, according to reports Friday by The New York Times and The Guardian.

A whistleblower complaint filed in June to the US Securities and Exchange Commission said Google may owe more than $100 million in back salaries over nine years in countries with pay parity laws, the reports said. 

"It's clear that this process has not been handled consistent with the high standards to which we hold ourselves as a company," Google's chief compliance officer, Spyro Karetsos, said in a statement. "In short, we're going to figure out what went wrong here, why it happened, and we're going to make it right." 

Spyros said the company is performing a thorough review of the situation to identify pay discrepancies. He noted, however, that temporary workers at Google are still paid comparatively more, even though the company hadn't increased "benchmark" rates for pay parity. 

The dustup comes as pay equity has come to the forefront in Silicon Valley. Last week, employees at Apple wrote an open letter to Tim Cook outlining several demands, including "transparent livable, equitable, and fair compensation across all of Apple." At Google, the gulf between temp workers and full-time employees has widened, with some critics accusing the tech giant of creating a two-tier system that blocks temps from certain benefits and company information. 

According to the reports, Google was aware of the pay disparities but resisted raising hourly rates by 20% to 30% because it would attract scrutiny. As a middle ground, the company instead chose to pay the correct rates only for new hires in 2021, the reports said.