Protection of employee privacy or unfair hiring practices?
By Savanah Tillberg, Contributor
In late December, Google, Inc. received a lawsuit from the Ministry of Labour as a result of refusing to release records to the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. The requested records contain compensation summaries for 2014 and 2015. The details of these documents include information regarding starting salary, starting position, and the names and contact information of employees from both compensation summaries.
The documents are used by the OFCCP to evaluate Google’s team of employees and ensure that there is no discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or any other factors during their hiring process.
The U.S. contracts Google for “Advertising and Integrated Marketing Solutions” among other things, and through these contracts Google is subject to an equal employment opportunity clause. Several U.S. labour laws, including the Executive Order, VEVRAA, and the Rehabilitation Act require the equal opportunities program to be implemented. As a federal contractor, Google agreed to the terms and conditions of these legal entities, which require them to submit requested items of relevance to the OFCCP.
OFCCP Acting Director Thomas M. Dowd said, “Like other federal contractors, Google has a legal obligation to provide relevant information requested in the course of a routine compliance evaluation.”
In a statement regarding the lawsuit, Google said, “These requests include thousands of employees’ private contact information, which we safeguard rigorously.” Google stated they refuse to submit these documents because the requests are “overboard in scope” and feel as though they risk the privacy of their employees.
Over the past two years, Google has made a public attempt to improve diversity amongst their employees. A spokesperson for the company stated: “We’re very committed to our affirmative action obligations, and to improving the diversity of our workforce, and have been very vocal about the importance of these issues.”
In 2015, Google announced that their hires of “women in tech” increased to 21% compared 19% in 2014. Currently, 31% of Google employees are female, and 69% are male. Of their total employee population, 59% are Caucasian, with the remaining 41% of other ethnicities. Within leadership roles, 70% of Google’s employees are Caucasian and women only fill 24% of these roles.
Although these numbers may not currently represent complete equality in employment opportunity, Google states that they are continually trying to “foster diversity and inclusion” in their workspaces.
If Google continues to retain their documents, the OFCCP is requesting the court revoke all of Google’s federal contracts and prevent them from instating new ones. Google said, “We hope to continue working with OFCCP to resolve this matter,” but has shown no signs of willingness to submit the requested documents.
If Google refuses to comply with the OFCCP, the court could potentially cancel all of Google’s federal contracts. The majority of Google’s revenue comes from advertisement contracts, similar to the federally funded ones the company stands to lose in this lawsuit. Google has received payments adding up to approximately $49 million from government contracts since 2008. However, considering Google’s total revenue in 2015 was $74.54 billion, losing the government contracts may not have significant financial effects on the company. The lack of financial pressure from federal contracts could play a role in Google’s persistence in withholding their documents.
While it may be said that Google’s attempts to protect their employees’ information is noble, their decision to withhold information from the OFCCP will continue to put their federal contracts and relationship in jeopardy, while potentially calling the company’s hiring practices into question.