Department of Labor sues Google to obtain employee data

Google: unfilled requests are either too broad or seek confidential information

The U.S. Department of Labor sued Google Wednesday in a dispute about how much employee information the technology giant must provide for an evaluation of its compliance with anti-discrimination laws.

The administrative lawsuit against Mountain View-based Google was filed with the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges in Washington, D.C., Wednesday.

If the agency wins an order requiring Google to provide the disputed data, and Google refuses, the company could be barred from receiving future federal contracts and have current contracts canceled.

The lawsuit says the department requested the information as part of a routine evaluation of Google's compliance with equal opportunity laws, and that Google was randomly selected for the study.

But Google allegedly "has persisted in its refusal to produce" certain items, despite repeated attempts by the Labor Department to obtain a voluntary handover of the data, the lawsuit claims.

The missing information is part of a larger request for "snapshots" of employee job and salary history as of Sept. 1, 2014, and Sept. 1, 2015, plus names and contact information of the workers, the lawsuit says.

Google said in a statement it has given the department "hundreds of thousands of records over the last year," but maintained the remaining unfilled requests are either too broad or seek confidential employee data, such as private contact information.

"We hope to continue working with (the department) to resolve this matter," the statement said.

"We're very committed to our affirmative action obligations and to improving the diversity of our workforce," the company stated.

The Labor Department says it is entitled to the information because Google has been a federal contractor, for example in a more than $600,000 contract in 2014 to provide advertising and integrated marketing programs.

Several U.S. laws, taken together, forbid job discrimination by government contractors on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran.

"Like other federal contractors, Google has a legal obligation to provide relevant information requested in the course of a routine compliance evaluation," said department compliance program director Thomas Dowd.

"Despite many opportunities to produce this information voluntarily, Google has refused to do so. We filed this lawsuit so we can obtain the information we need to complete our evaluation," he said in a statement.

The lawsuit asks for an administrative law judge's order requiring Google to provide the information, or, if Google refuses, an order canceling the company's current federal contracts and prohibiting any future contracts until it complies.

An administrative law judge's ruling can be appealed to the Labor Department's Administrative Review Board.


9 people like this
Posted by Thomas Paine IV
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 5, 2017 at 10:07 am

Truly mind boggling. Ranks right up there with the Federal government persecution of Palantir because they have too many Asian employees. Anyone who questions the need to reduce government regulation overreach should read this story. Google and the rest of Silicon Valley are desperate for people with brilliant minds and will hire anyone of any color or background if they have the qualifications.

Maybe the reporter could have asked the Labor spokesman how many discrimination complaints have been filed against Google?

8 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 5, 2017 at 10:23 am

@Thomas Paine IV - read this article in the Mercury-News "Department of Labor accuses Palantir of discriminating against Asian job applicants": Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2017 at 10:34 am

In light of the fact that there is a legal battle with Amazon over its Echo device and the fact that Google Home is being marketed similarly, the fact that devices are in homes now listening to every conversation in case they are asked for a response, I think it is time to be very wary of just how much data Google has about all of us. From the fact that we can search for locations and use their maps, to searching the internet and now the possibility of recording every conversation in our homes, I think that they are becoming too powerful.

Big Brother may not be watching us, but I think Google is able to watch and hear - and remember!

4 people like this
Posted by allen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 5, 2017 at 11:15 am

Google should just give up on the Federal Contracts. When I was at Hewlett Packard, they closed down an entire division to avoid these laws. Let Lockheed provide the government help in advertising ;-)

These laws are fine for defence contractors but companies need to decide if they want to be subject to them.

3 people like this
Posted by trust
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 5, 2017 at 12:18 pm

The Dept of Labor should not need private contact information, and based on govt track record of protecting citizen and employee data in the past, I am glad Google is not handing it over without a fight.

5 people like this
Posted by Enuf
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 5, 2017 at 6:32 pm

as much as i detest Trump, i'm glad a republican congress and administration will roll back the incredible amount of suffocating regulations and guidelines hurting business. Companies create jobs, government overreach destroys them

7 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2017 at 10:11 pm

Maybe the Department of Labor could evaluate the hiring statistics of the more than 5 million jobs that have been off shored to China, India and Mexico since 2001 and determine if the diversity practices there meet its standards.

1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 5, 2017 at 10:16 pm

Government regulations are extremely expensive to coordinate and be in compliance with. That is why it is so expensive to build new technology items.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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