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Knowledge Center Items Discrimination and Harassment Suits Hit Tech Industry

Discrimination and Harassment Suits Hit Tech Industry

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Google is the most recent technology innovator to be hit with a lawsuit alleging discrimination over its salary practices. Three women who worked at Google claim the company discriminates against its female employees by systematically paying them less than men who do similar jobs. The suit, filed in California Superior Court in San Francisco, claims Google knew or should have known about the pay disparity between men and women at the company, but failed to take action to rectify it. It follows a contentious fight with the Labor Department over a routine audit of Google’s pay practices, cites the New York Times.

Google is subject to Labor Department oversight as a federal contractor that sells advertising and Internet services to the government. At a hearing this year, a department official said the audit had found “systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire work force, ” although Google has not officially been accused of any wrongdoing.

Google is not the only tech giant facing employment-related lawsuits. UploadVR, a San Francisco-based virtual reality startup, is being sued for claims of sexual discrimination and sex and gender harassment, “creating an unbearable environment” for female employees. Another case involves Magic Leap’s marketing head, who alleges the company had a hostile work environment for women, and that leaders actively obstructed attempts to solve the problem. The complaint specifically alleges that executives, including the CEO, were fully aware that discrimination was rife.

This type of alleged behavior in the tech industry is further highlighted in a survey conducted by Elephant in the Valley, which found that 87% of women in Silicon Valley felt subject to "demeaning comments from male colleagues" and 60% of women in tech report unwanted sexual advances. The study discovered that one in three women felt afraid for their personal safety due to repeated sexual harassment.

Addressing the Issues

Implementing workplace best practices throughout a company is critical in its ability to attract and retain top talent. It’s also necessary that a culture of inclusiveness and fairness permeate throughout the entire organization, beginning with executive management. For example, in the wake of claims against Uber Technologies for discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation, recommendations were made to the board back in June, which were subsequently accepted. This included raising the profile of the company’s diversity officer; creating an oversight committee to oversee the company’s efforts and enhance a culture of ethical business practices, diversity and inclusion within the organization; ensuring that HR has appropriate tools, including complaint tracking software, to keep better track of complaints, personnel records and employee data; prohibiting romantic or intimate relationships between individuals in a reporting relationship; updating policies on discrimination and harassment; recognizing managers for their diversity efforts; and reformulating the firm’s 14 cultural values so they are more inclusive.

Also important for tech companies and all businesses is to have a robust Management Liability insurance program in place that includes Directors & Officers Liability and Employment Practices Liability coverage (EPL). EPL insurance responds in the event of allegations of discrimination, harassment and other workplace issues, providing coverage for defense and liability judgments and settlements.

RPS specializes in insuring all types of industry segments, including technology companies, and can provide a Management Liability insurance solution for clients.

Sources: Wired UK, NY Times, SHRM

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