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Google to settle hiring bias accusations for $3.8 million

Settlement states that unused funds will be spent on improving diversity efforts at the company

Google has reached a settlement with the US Department of Labor that will see the tech giant pay $3.8 million (£2.78M) to compensate for gender pay gaps and biased hiring practices.

Of this amount, $2.6 million will be spent on back pay for 5,500 employees and candidates, with the remaining $1.25 million to be used for adjustments for engineers in Mountain View, Kirkland, Seattle and New York over the next five years.

The settlement also stated that any unused funds are to be spent on diversity efforts at Google.

A Google spokesperson told IT Pro that the company believes that “everyone should be paid based upon the work they do, not who they are”, adding that it invests “heavily” in making its hiring and compensation processes “fair and unbiased”.

However, over the years, the tech giant has come under fire for practices that have been considered prejudiced against minority groups. It has also faced legal action for paying its female employees less than their male counterparts.

In September 2017, a group of former Google employees filed a lawsuit against the company on the basis of gender inequality and discrimination. One of the plaintiffs, Kelly Ellis, who had four years of previous experience, was hired as a software engineer at a Level 3 job position, a level at which Google typically hires recent college graduates.

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Meanwhile, a man who was hired at a similar time with similar experience was hired at a Level 4 position. Three months later, the class-action lawsuit was dismissed.

However, an investigation by the US Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs found “preliminary indicators” that, between 2014 and 2017, Google had underpaid 2,783 women in its software engineering group. Investigators also discovered hiring rate differences which disadvantaged women and Asian candidates who had applied for software engineering roles in San Francisco, Sunnyvale, California, and Kirkland, Washington.

Late last year, Google made headlines for allegedly dismissing its leading artificial intelligence (AI) scientist after she had criticised its treatment of women and employees of colour. Former staff research scientist and co-lead of the company's Ethical AI team, Timnit Gebru, also accused the company of forcing her to retract a paper questioning its use of AI tools.

Days later, CEO Sundar Pichai issued an apology for how the company handled the incident, but the reception of the statement was lukewarm.

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