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Google Hit With Gender Discrimination Verdict

Gender discrimination in the workplace is illegal in California, but that doesn't deter some employers. Many women continue to face discrimination in pay, training opportunities, promotions, and other aspects of employment at their jobs. A recent case against Google filed and decided in New York illustrates that gender discrimination continues to be a pervasive problem. However, people who are the victims of gender discrimination might have grounds to pursue compensation by filing gender discrimination claims against their employers.

Google Gender Discrimination Claim Factual Background

Ulku Rowe was employed by Google LLC as an executive. She served as an engineering director for Google Cloud. When Rowe was hired by Google, she had 23 years of experience in technology and financial services. She alleged that she was hired at level eight of Google's hiring system while males hired at the same time as her with less experience were hired at one step above or level nine. Rowe was paid an average of $750,000 per year, while the male coworkers hired at level nine were regularly paid $1 million per year or more.

According to Rowe, she was denied a promotion that was instead given to a man with less qualifications. She claimed that Google engaged in illegal gender discrimination by hiring her at level eight instead of level nine, paying her a lower average salary than what her male peers earned for the same work, and passing her over for a promotion for which she was qualified.

Rowe also argued that Google retaliated against her when she complained about gender discrimination within the company. According to Rwe, Google demoted her soon after she filed her complaint. Her attorney argued she was undervalued by Google from the date of her hiring as a director at Google Cloud.


Rowe filed a lawsuit against Google in New York under the state's Equal Pay Law. Under New York's Equal Pay Law, employers must provide employees with equal opportunity, but they are not necessarily guaranteed equal pay. According to Rowe's attorney, she filed a lawsuit against Google to hold the company accountable for treating women differently and paying them less for their work than males performing similar work in technology.

The case went to trial before a jury after a couple of years in the discovery process. The jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Rowe. The jury found that Google treated Rowe differently than her male peers based on her gender and returned a verdict of more than $1 million in damages. The jury deliberated for more than five hours.

The jury awarded Rowe $150,000 in pain and suffering damages and $1 million in punitive damages. Her case was the first pay discrimination lawsuit filed against the company following 2018's mass walkouts. During those walkouts, hundreds of Google workers walked out in protest over how the tech giant has handled sexual misconduct committed by top executives.

Google argued that Rowe was provided with the same opportunities as her male peers and was subjected to the same criteria during her performance evaluations. During the defense counsel's opening arguments, he stated that Rowe's income was based on her performance and varied with some years being less than what her peers earned and others being more than what they did.

The case was heard in federal court in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The jury found that Rowe failed to prove that she was paid less than two or more of her male colleagues. Google stated it was pleased the jury found that Google had not violated the pay equity laws but disagreed with the jury's finding that she was discriminated against because of her gender and retaliated against for complaining about gender discrimination and pay.

Understanding Gender Discrimination

Gender discrimination in the workplace can take multiple forms and include any type of treatment that is different than others based on gender. Both men and women can suffer from gender discrimination, but gender discrimination against women, transgendered workers, and people with different gender orientations is more common than gender discrimination against men.

Gender discrimination can include demeaning comments based on a worker's gender, sexual harassment, denial of promotions, denial of training opportunities, and unequal pay. Like New York, California has an Equal Pay Act that protects workers from illegally discriminatory pay differences based on gender. While New York's Equal Pay Law only provides that people should be provided with equal opportunity but does not guarantee they will receive equal pay outcomes, California's law provides more protection.

Under the California Equal Pay Act, employers must pay people the same for equal work regardless of gender. The law specifically requires employers to pay employees the same rate of pay for substantially similar work. Substantially similar work includes work that is similar in terms of the skills required, working conditions, responsibility, and effort. The person's title does not mean anything. Instead, the courts evaluate the work performed and the skills and effort required regardless of different titles.


In both New York and California, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees for exercising their employee rights. This includes a prohibition against retaliating against a worker for complaining about gender discrimination and unequal pay for substantially similar work. If an employee files an internal complaint about gender discrimination or unequal pay based on their gender, the employer must investigate the complaint and take steps to remedy any problems the investigation uncovers.

Even if the employer's investigation determines that no gender discrimination occurred, the employer cannot retaliate against an employee who had a good-faith belief that the complained-about conduct was unlawfully discriminatory. This means an employer can't retaliate against you for complaining about pay differences and other forms of gender discrimination by demoting you, denying a promotion, firing you, or taking other retaliatory actions against you based on your complaint.

If your employer does retaliate against you for complaining about discrimination, you will have a separate ground to pursue a retaliation claim against your employer. It is possible to recover compensation in a retaliation lawsuit against your employer even if your discrimination claim is ultimately dismissed.

Gender Discrimination in Tech

The lawsuit against Google in New York demonstrates that gender discrimination is a pervasive problem in the technology industry. However, it is also an issue that occurs in many different sectors. Companies in industries that are traditionally male-dominated might have higher instances of gender discrimination than those that are less male-centric.

Since the beginning of the tech industry in California and elsewhere, the field has been dominated by males. As more women have entered the industry, many have faced discrimination in terms of pay and treatment by their employers and other forms of discrimination from their male coworkers. Lawsuits such as the one decided in Rowe's favor against Google might help to deter tech companies and others dominated by men from engaging in similarly discriminatory conduct against women and those with differing gender identities or sexual orientations.

Contact an Experienced Gender Discrimination and Equal Pay Lawyer

If you are being targeted for discrimination because of your gender or have learned that your salary is much lower than the salaries of your male co-workers for substantially similar work, you might have grounds to pursue an equal pay and gender discrimination claim against your employer. If you have filed an internal complaint about your treatment and have suffered retaliation because of it, you might also have grounds to pursue a retaliation claim. To learn more, contact the law firm of Steven M. Sweat, APC today by calling 866-966-5240.

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