Google, Microsoft grapple with gender inequality lawsuits

Cases against technology giants shine a light on salary discrepancies between men and women and that’s as true in healthcare as any other industry.
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Google, Microsoft gender inequality lawsuits

Microsoft and Google are embroiled in lawsuits accusing them of paying men more than women for doing the same work -- which highlight the realities of gender inequality among women in technology and healthcare.

Women health IT professionals, in fact, experienced a downward trend in salaries. A decade-long HIMSS study found that females were paid 81 percent what male counterparts made in 2006 but by 2016 that percentage had actually dropped to 78. 

[Also: Women in health IT blaze their own path even as gender inequality persists]

Salary inequities strike to the core of the allegations against Google and Microsoft. In the Google case, Plaintiffs Kelly Ellis, Holly Pease, and Kelli Wisuri, who previously worked for Google, alleged the company was practicing pay discrimination against women, charging that Google was paying female employees less than what it paid men doing the same jobs. 

And while California Superior court judge Mary Wiss denied their request for a class-action suit in December, the plaintiff’s attorney, James Finberg, filed a new complaint last week that he said would make it clear “Google violates the California Equal Pay Act – by paying women less than men for substantially equal work in nearly every job classification.” 

The revised lawsuit also asks for class-action status against Google claiming the company asked new hires about their prior salary, a practice banned in California. 

Finberg said Google's use of prior compensation to set starting pay for employees results in men receiving higher starting salaries and better career tracks. Because the company also sets job classification levels relative to prior pay, newly hired women will consistently make less than men over time, he writes.

"Google's under-leveling of women not only resulted in Google paying them lower base salaries than if they had been properly leveled but also resulted in Google paying them smaller bonuses and fewer stock units and options than if Google had placed them in the proper level," the lawsuit contends.

The suit now aims to represent women who hold the positions of engineer, manager, sales or early childhood education.

The suit against Microsoft was filed by three female employees, who are seeking class-action status based on allegations dating back to a suit filed by Katherine Moussouris and two other female employees in September 2015. 

The three plaintiffs’ lawyer asked for class-action status in October 2017. They also hired researchers to evaluate Microsoft’s policies regarding promotions and salaries. The study showed big pay gaps between men and women doing similar work with similar results, they allege.

If the plaintiffs in the Microsoft case were successful in gaining class-action status, it could mean more than 8,000 women would be added as plaintiffs in the case. Microsoft has refuted the allegations, saying there is no systemic bias in its review process.

Twitter: @Bernie_HITN
Email the writer: bernie.monegain@himssmedia.com

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