Google is now embroiled in a full class-action lawsuit over whether it underpaid women

Four women who used to work for Google have won class-action status for their gender equity lawsuit against the search engine company, allowing them to represent some 10,800 women, Bloomberg reports.

The lawsuit alleges that Google pays men more than women for the same work, in violation of California’s Equal Pay Act, and that Google paid its female employees nearly $17,000 less per year than male counterparts in the same roles. The women filed the suit in 2017, claiming they were put into lower career tracks than their male colleagues— so-called “job ladders” that resulted in them receiving lower bonuses and salaries. The women have since left Google.

“This is a significant day for women at Google and in the technology sector, and we are so proud of our brave clients for leading the way,” Kelly Dermody, an attorney representing the women, wrote in an email to Bloomberg. “This order shows that it is critical that companies prioritize paying women equitably over spending money fighting them in litigation.”

The plaintiffs weren’t the only ones accusing Google of systematically underpaying female employees in 2017; the US Department of Labor also sued Google that year for withholding compensation data, and concluded three months later that Google was responsible for “systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce.” Google agreed to pay $2.5 million to employees and job applicants earlier this year over alleged pay and hiring discrimination.

A Google spokesperson said in an email to The Verge that the company “strongly believes in the equity” of its policies and practices. The spokesperson did not directly address the lawsuit’s class action status, but said the company has performed a “rigorous pay equity analysis” annually for the past eight years. “If we find any differences in proposed pay, including between men and women, we make upward adjustments to remove them before new compensation goes into effect,” the spokesperson added, saying that last year alone Google made “upward adjustments” for 2,352 employees across the company, for a total of $4.4 million. Google had over 135,000 employees as of December, and pulled in $17 billion in profit last quarter alone.

Dermody, the attorney, told Bloomberg she expected a trial to start sometime next year.

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