Google may have been underpaying many of its contract workers for years, according to a new report in The New York Times.
That report details how Google managers decided to apply new, corrected rates in 2021—but the company may owe nine years’ worth of back salary in certain countries that have pay parity laws (in addition to potential legal costs).
Google is arguing that it actually paid many temps more than the benchmark rates. “It’s clear that this process has not been handled consistent with the high standards to which we hold ourselves as a company,” Spyro Karetsos, the company’s chief compliance officer, told the newspaper. “We’re going to figure out what went wrong here, why it happened, and we’re going to make it right.”
Although Google has worked in recent years to reduce its reliance on temp workers, they still make up a very significant percentage of the company’s workforce—the Times pegged the number at more than 150,000, versus 144,000 full-time employees.
Google has a reputation of paying out generous salaries to its full-time employees. For example, software engineers and product managers at the company can easily earn six-figure salaries, in addition to stock options and bonuses; Google’s office buildings are also famous for their on-site perks, including gourmet cafeterias and fitness centers, some of which are currently closed due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
However, it’s also run into controversy before over its salaries. Earlier this year, for example, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) hit the company with a multi-million-dollar fine over allegations that managers discriminated against Asian and women software engineers. The DOL ordered Google to pay just over $2.5 million in back pay to the impacted workers; another $1.25 million was placed in a cash reserve for future salary adjustments.
When it comes to temp workers, it now seems that Google will adjust pay for many. But will it end up paying back wages to those who were underpaid for years? That’s a critical question.