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Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. 


Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google will pay almost $2.6 million to settle claims of “systemic compensation and hiring discrimination” at offices in California and Washington, the US Department of Labor said Monday. 

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 will 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. 

“Pay discrimination remains a systemic problem,” Jenny R. Yang, program director of the department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance, said in a statement. “Employers must conduct regular pay equity audits to ensure that their compensation systems promote equal opportunity.”

Google also agreed to allocate $1.25 million in pay-equity adjustments over the next five years in several of its offices in the US, including in New York and Seattle. The audits by the labor department took place between 2014 and 2017.

“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,” a Google spokeswoman said in a statement. “For the past eight years, we have run annual internal pay equity analysis to identify and address any discrepancies.” 

Google’s global full-time work force is 68% men and 32%, according to a company diversity report released in May. In the US, the company reported an increase in Black employees to 3.7% from 3.3% a year earlier, and Latino employees to 5.9% from 5.7%. The company doesn’t give absolute figures for demographic groups. 

The settlement comes as Google has faced other labor issues over the past few months. In December, the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Google for allegedly retaliating against activists workers. The complaint claims Google broke US labor laws by surveilling, interrogating and firing activist employees. 

The company has also been roiled by the dismissal of Timnit Gebru, a prominent artificial intelligence researcher and one of the only Black women in the field, who said she was fired over a research paper that calls out risks for bias in AI — including in systems used by Google’s search engine. Her exit caused widespread outrage among Google’s rank-and-file workforce and around the broader tech industry.

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