Google Gender Discrimination

Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP and Altshuler Berzon LLP serve as Co-Lead Counsel for Plaintiffs and a Certified Class in Ellis v. Google LLC, No. CGC-17-561299, a gender discrimination lawsuit pending in San Francisco Superior Court since 2017.

The case challenges two systemic practices at Google.  First, Plaintiffs allege that Google pays women less than men in the same job code, in violation of California’s Equal Pay Act, California Labor Code §1197.5 (“EPA”), which requires that men and women performing substantially equal or similar work be paid equally, and in violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law, California Business and Professions Code §17200 (“UCL”), by virtue of the EPA violation.  Second, Plaintiffs allege that Google assigns women to lower job levels than men with comparable experience and education based on lower pay at prior employment, in violation of the UCL by virtue of a violation of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, California Government Code §12900 et seq. (“FEHA”).  On May 27, 2021, the Court certified these claims for class action treatment.

Settlement Update – July 2022

On June 10, 2022, Plaintiffs filed an Unopposed Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement.  If approved, the parties’ Settlement will resolve Plaintiffs’ certified EPA and FEHA claims against Google, as well as their Private Attorneys General Act, California Labor Code § 2698, et seq. (“PAGA”) claims.  The settlement covers approximately 15,500 women employed in California by Google in 236 different job titles (the “Covered Positions”) since September 14, 2013. On July 25, 2022, the Honorable Andrew Y.S. Cheng issued an order granting preliminary approval to the settlement.  By August 28, 2022, a third-party administrator will issue notice to the Class Members of the Settlement.  The final approval hearing is set for October 31, at 3:00 p.m.

The Settlement resolves these claims by:  (1) creating a non-reversionary monetary fund of $118 million, to redress past harms; and (2) providing for substantial programmatic relief, to prevent future harms.  This programmatic relief includes engagement of independent third-party experts selected jointly by the parties to evaluate how Google might improve both its annual pay equity process and its processes for setting level at hire, as well as an external monitor to oversee Google’s good faith efforts to address the experts’ recommendations.  The post-settlement work will be supervised over the next three years.  Plaintiffs believe these programs will help ensure that women are not paid less than their male counterparts who perform substantially similar work, and that Google’s challenged leveling practices are equitable.

If the court later grants final approval of the settlement, the third-party administrator will allocate settlement amounts to each participating Class Member based on an objective formula, detailed in the agreed upon Plan of Allocation.

Statements on the Settlement:

“As a woman who’s spent her entire career in the tech industry, I’m optimistic that the actions Google has agreed to take as part of this settlement will ensure more equity for women,” said Plaintiff Holly Pease.  “Google, since its founding, has led the tech industry.  They also have an opportunity to lead the charge to ensure inclusion and equity for women in tech.”

Plaintiffs’ co-counsel Kelly Dermody stated, “Plaintiffs believe this settlement advances gender equity at Google and will be precedent-setting for the industry.”

“Google has long been a technology leader.  We are delighted that in this Settlement Agreement and Order Google is also affirming its commitment to be a leader in ensuring pay equity and equal employment opportunity for all of their employees,” said Plaintiffs’ co-counsel Jim Finberg.

Read the Motion for Preliminary Approval

Read the Settlement Agreement, Notice, and Plan of Allocation

Read the Plaintiffs’ Press Release

Read list of Covered Positions

Class Certification Update – May 2021

On May 27, 2021, the Honorable Andrew Y.S. Cheng issued an order certifying a Class of current and former female Google workers who allege the tech giant engaged in systemic and pervasive pay and leveling discrimination against its female employees in California, at times paying women thousands of dollars less than their male counterparts.

The Court certified the following Classes:  (1) all women employed by Google in a Covered Position in California at any time from September 14, 2013 through the date of trial in this Action (the “Equal Pay Claim Class”); and (2) all women employed by Google in a Covered Position in California at any time from September 14, 2013 through the date of trial in this Action, excluding campus hires and women hired after August 28, 2017 (the “FEHA Claim Subclass”).  The Court also certified Plaintiffs’ claim for waiting time penalties under California Labor Code §§ 201-203.

Read the Order Granting Class Certification

“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,” noted Lieff Cabraser partner Kelly M. Dermody, who represents the Plaintiffs and Class in the case. “This order shows that it is critical that companies prioritize paying women equitably over spending money fighting them in litigation.”

Case Filing – September 2017

On September 14, 2017, Plaintiffs filed this gender discrimination case against Google in California state court.  Filed under California’s newly amended equal pay law, the class action breaks new ground in tech, as it seeks to address pervasive pay discrimination and the pernicious practice of using candidates’ past salary information to determine their pay rate, a process that perpetuates the gender wage gap.  While Plaintiffs originally sought to represent a class of all women employed by Google in California at any time in the previous four years, on January 3, 2018, Plaintiffs limited their proposed class to women in the 226 Covered Positions through a First Amended Complaint.  On March 27, 2018, the Honorable Mary E. Wiss issued an order finding Plaintiffs’ classwide allegations sufficient to survive Google’s attempts to have them dismissed and/or stricken.

Read the First Amended Complaint

Read the Order Denying Google’s Demurrer and Motion to Strike

Information on the Named Plaintiffs

The Named Plaintiffs are Kelly Ellis, Holly Pease, Kelli Wisuri, and Heidi Lamar.  All of the Named Plaintiffs are women who worked for Google in California in a Covered Position since September 14, 2013.  Their backgrounds are:

Plaintiff Kelly Ellis worked as a Software Engineer at Google’s Mountain View office for approximately four years, departing the company with the title of Senior Manager.

Plaintiff Holly Pease worked for Google for approximately 10.5 years, in both Mountain View and Sunnyvale, holding numerous technical leadership roles, including: Manager, Corporate Network Engineering; Manager, Business Systems Integration; Manager, Corporate Data Warehouse/Reporting Team; and Senior Manager, Business Systems Integration.

Plaintiff Kelli Wisuri worked for Google for approximately 2.5 years in its Mountain View office, as an Enterprise Operations Coordinator, Enterprise Sales Operations Associate, and Google Brand Evangelist, Executive Communications Program (aka Sales Solutions Senior Associate).

Plaintiff Heidi Lamar worked as a Preschool Teacher and Infant/Toddler Teacher at Google’s Children Center in Palo Alto for approximately four years.

Information on Plaintiffs’ Counsel

Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP:  Lieff Cabraser is one of the country’s largest and most successful firms exclusively representing plaintiffs in civil litigation, having secured verdicts or settlements worth over $127 billion for clients nationwide. With 120 attorneys, the firm has led some of the most significant litigation of the last decade, including the VW clean diesel emissions case, which resulted in over $15 billion for VW owners (In re: Volkswagen ‘Clean Diesel’ Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2672 (Northern District of California federal court)); and the high-tech cold-calling wage conspiracy case alleging an agreement among prominent technology companies to not poach each other’s employees, which resulted in settlements totaling $435 million (In re: High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, 11-cv-2509-LJK (Northern District of California federal court)).  Partner Kelly Dermody, co-lead counsel here, led High-Tech for her firm. She is currently Chair of the Section of Labor and Employment Law of the American Bar Association, and Managing Partner of the San Francisco Office of Lieff Cabraser.

Altshuler Berzon LLP:  Altshuler Berzon LLP is a San Francisco law firm that specializes in labor and employment, constitutional, environmental, civil rights, campaign and election, and impact litigation. Altshuler Berzon, LLP has been co-lead counsel in a number of civil rights class actions, including Ries v McDonalds, 1:20 CV 0002 HYJ RSK ( W.D. Mich. 2022) (sex harassment class action); and Satchell v Federal Express, C03-2878 SI ( ND Cal.) (race discrimination class action). Altshuler Berzon is currently serving as co-lead counsel in the Jewett v Oracle Equal Pay Act class action in San Mateo Superior Court, 17 Civ 02669 (San Mateo Sup.) set for trial on January 23, 2023.

For More Information

Kelly M. Dermody
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP
275 Battery Street, 29th Floor
San Francisco, CA  94111-3339
Tel:  (415) 956-1000 ext. 3333
Jim Finberg
Altshuler Berzon LLP
177 Post Street, Suite 300
San Francisco, California 94108
Tel: (415) 421-7151