Alphabet Inc’s Google will spend $3.8m, including $2.6m in back pay, to settle allegations that it underpaid women and unfairly passed over women and Asians for job openings, the United States Department of Labor said on Monday.
The allegations stemmed from a routine compliance audit several years ago required by Google’s status as a supplier of technology to the US federal government.
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Google said it was pleased to have resolved the matter.
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs had found “preliminary indicators” that Google from 2014 to 2017 at times underpaid 2,783 women in its software engineering group in Mountain View, California and the Seattle area.
Investigators also found hiring rate differences that disadvantaged women and Asian candidates during the year ended August 31, 2017, for software engineering roles in San Francisco, Sunnyvale, California and Kirkland, Washington.
The settlement includes $2.6m in back pay to 5,500 employees and job candidates and calls on Google to review hiring and salary practices.
Google also will set aside $1.25m for pay adjustments for engineers in Mountain View, Kirkland, Seattle and New York over the next five years, according to the settlement. Any unused funds will be spent on diversity efforts at Google.
The company already conducts annual pay audits, but like other big technology companies, it remains under public scrutiny for a workforce that does not reflect the country’s makeup in terms of race and gender.
The company said in a statement: “We believe everyone should be paid based upon the work they do, not who they are, and invest heavily to make our hiring and compensation processes fair and unbiased.”
The news of the settlement comes on the heels of a controversy around the exit in December of a researcher, Timnit Gebru, in a storm of controversy.
Gebru is best known for showing how facial recognition algorithms are better at identifying white people than Black people. She has said she was fired after the company demanded she retract a research paper she co-authored that questioned AI technology at the heart of Google’s search engine. The company has said she resigned.