Google, which has been accused of systematically underpaying female engineers and other workers, is now facing allegations that it discriminated against women who taught employees’ children at the company’s childcare center.
A former employee, Heidi Lamar, is alleging in a complaint that female teachers were paid lower salaries than men with fewer qualifications doing the same job.
Lamar, who worked at Google for four years before quitting in 2017, alleged that the technology company employed roughly 147 women and three men as pre-school teachers, but that two of those men were granted higher starting salaries than nearly all of the women.
“I didn’t want to work for a company that I can’t trust, that makes me feel like my values of gender equality are being compromised,” Lamar, 31, told the Guardian.
Lamar’s complaint, filed on Wednesday in San Francisco, suggests that Google’s alleged pattern of denying women equal pay extends to one of the few female-dominated sectors of the Mountain View company. Google declined to comment on Lamar’s claims, but the company has repeatedly insisted that there is no gender pay gap and that it has conducted rigorous analyses to ensure that women are fairly compensated.
Lamar, however, said that Google brushed aside her concerns despite what she said was clear evidence of discrimination. The teacher, who left Google last summer, has joined a class-action lawsuit, which alleges that Google “segregated” women into lower-paying jobs and included accounts from a former engineer, manager and sales worker.
Lamar joined the class-action case this week after a judge dismissed an initial complaint in December, saying it was overly broad. A narrower version filed on Wednesday has proposed a class that includes workers in engineering, research, management, sales and teaching.
The suit, filed amid a wave of discrimination and sexual harassment scandals in the tech industry in 2017, followed an investigation by the US Department of Labor, which sued Google for pay records and alleged “extreme” pay discrimination.
When Lamar was hired in 2013 as a preschool teacher at Google’s children’s center, which provides daycare and classes to employees’ children, she had five years experience in similar jobs and a master’s in teaching at the early childhood level.
“I was definitely very excited to work at Google,” Lamar said. “I found the environment and the educators and everyone I met there to be really inspiring.”
She said she was surprised when Google classified her as a Level 1 employee, the lowest possible category, offering her $18.51 an hour, which was the same as her previous salary. Despite her qualifications and her move to one of the most expensive housing markets in the country, Google declined to negotiate her starting salary, records show.
Lamar loved the job, which involved teaching four- and five-year-olds and working with infants and toddlers, and she was eventually promoted. But in March 2017, in a conversation with colleagues inspired by International Women’s Day, Lamar said she was stunned when a male colleague revealed he was hired at Level 2 at the same time as her and offered $21 per hour.
That meant his salary was 13% higher than hers even though, she alleged, he had only three years’ experience and no master’s degree in teaching.
“The biggest difference was that he’s a man,” she said. “My first reaction was to immediately feel angry and insulted.”
She was further upset to later learn that another male teacher had also been hired at Level 2, she said. Lamar said she knew of only one woman hired during her time at Google who started at the higher rate, and she had over 10 years of experience.
Lamar said the discovery was particularly frustrating given that educators, a traditionally female profession, already tend to be underpaid across the US.
Lamar said she brought her concerns to a supervisor and human resources, and that an HR representative eventually told her that there was no bias in the hiring practices, but declined to provide any data on the gender breakdown of Level 1 and 2 teachers. She said she was also told that some people could get higher placement due to their performance at job interviews, which made Lamar further concerned that the hiring process could be biased.
Disappointed in Google’s response, she resigned: “It was very, very sad to leave.”
Presented with details of Lamar’s allegations, Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano said in an email: “We work really hard to create a great workplace for everyone, and to give everyone the chance to thrive here. Job levels and promotions are determined through rigorous hiring and promotion committees, and must pass multiple levels of review, including checks to make sure there is no bias in these decisions.”