Meanwhile Google pays women less than men across the board

On the one hand, shock-horror, Google has fired that nice James Damore simply for expressing his opinion, no one should ever be fired just for expressing an opinion.

On the other hand, just a couple of weeks ago the Labor Department was saying Google’s confidentiality policy was making it difficult to gather information on their demographics.

So is Google political correctness run amok or is it self-protective capitalism as usual?

The US Department of Labor has raised concerns that Google’s strict confidentiality agreements have discouraged employees from speaking to the government about discrimination as part of a high-profile wage inequality investigation.

Following a judge’s ruling that Google must hand over salary records and employee contact information to federal regulators investigating possible systemic pay disparities, a labor department official said the agency was worried that the technology corporation’s restrictive employee communication policies could impede the next phase of the inquiry.

“We have had employees during the course of the investigation express concerns about whether they are permitted by Google to talk to the government, because the company policy commits them to confidentiality,” Janet Herold, labor department regional solicitor, told the Guardian in an interview after the judge’s order.

“When even a single employee expresses that, that means many more people are too concerned to make the call or have the conversation. The chilling effect is quite extreme.”

Google said Nuh-UH, not true, not true not true not true.

But Herold’s comments and the DoL’s recent filings – along with interviews with former Google workers and a separate federal complaint against the company – paint a picture of a workplace where employees have allegedly been subject to overly broad and illegal confidentiality policies and threatening messages from managers that have intimidated them into staying silent about wrongdoing.

These kinds of confidentiality clauses are commonplace in Silicon Valley, ostensibly to protect trade secrets. But critics say the rules are sometimes so extreme they prevent employees from engaging in their legally protected rights to raise concerns about discrimination, sexual harassment and other labor violations.

“It is built into the culture that it’s shameful to leak,” said one former senior manager at Google, who requested anonymity for fear of repercussions. “It builds a sense of paranoia … There is just such a sense that leakers will be found and terminated.”

Ironies abound here. James Damore would seem to be an example of that except that he wouldn’t, because his memo didn’t discuss concerns about discrimination, sexual harassment and other labor violations, it discussed concerns about too much concern about discrimination and sexual harassment. It was itself discrimination and sexual harassment. (Yeah it was. I know it was dressed up as a dispassionate and “scholarly” treatise on How Women Are Different From Us, but that was indeed just dressing up. Under the frilly gown it was just a bog-standard MRA rant about stupid emo women.)

The concerns of Herold and other government attorneys stem from the labor department’s continuing audit of Google, which is a federal contractor and must comply with equal opportunity laws. In January, the labor department sued Google for compensation data it refused to disclose after the government’s preliminary inquiry found that the company pays women less than men across the board.

Google – which argued that the data requests were too expansive and violated employees’ privacy – has vehemently denied the discrimination allegations, saying its own analyses have found there is no gender pay gap.

A judge ruled last week that Google must provide the labor department with 2014 salary records and contact information for up to 8,000 employees for possible interviews. Herold said the department was concerned that the next phase of the investigation could face obstacles as a result of Google confidentiality rules.

“The entire enforcement mechanism of federal law is dependent on employees feeling free and able to talk,” she said. “In a case like Google, where our preliminary analysis reveals systemic and sweeping discrimination in pay against women for nearly all job titles … something is going on and we need to find out what that is. Employees are the eyes and ears on the ground.”

Wheels within wheels, eh?

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