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Revised suit faults Google for asking hires about previous pay

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A revised lawsuit seeking class-action status against Google faults the search giant for asking new hires about their previous salaries, a practice now banned in California.

The suit, filed Wednesday, also adds a fourth complainant, a preschool teacher with a master’s degree. The four women allege they were underpaid by Google compared with their male counterparts.

The suit, which is led by the lawyer James Finberg of San Francisco-based Altshuler Berzon, argues that Google’s use of previous compensation to set the starting pay of employees results in men receiving higher starting salaries and better career opportunities. Because the company also sets job classifications relative to previous pay, newly hired women will consistently make less than men over time, the suit says.

The Google mobile phone icon as seen last year in Philadelphia.  A revised lawsuit seeking class-action status against Google faults the search giant’s practice of asking new hires about their previous salaries, a practice now banned in California because it perpetuates existing biases against women. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

The Google mobile phone icon as seen last year in Philadelphia. A revised lawsuit seeking class-action status against Google faults the search giant’s practice of asking new hires about their previous salaries, a practice now banned in California because it perpetuates existing biases against women. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

“Google’s under-levelling of women not only resulted in Google paying them lower base salaries than if they had been properly levelled, 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 says.

The suit was refiled after being dismissed last month for defining the class of affected workers too broadly. It now aims to represent women who hold the positions of engineer, manager, sales or early childhood education.

The amendment came shortly after a new law took effect in California prohibiting employers from asking job applicants about previous salaries, a step designed to narrow pay differences between men and women. If an applicant volunteers previous pay information, the law bans employers from using it to set salaries.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a three-year federal Labor Department investigation into pay practices at Google.

The department sued last January to bar Google from doing business with the federal government until it released thousands of documents related to an audit that had preliminarily found widespread pay differences between men and women.

Google has disputed those findings and says its own analysis shows no such differences.

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