Feds sue Google over worker data

The U.S. Department of Labor sued Google Inc. 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., today.

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. … We’re very committed to our affirmative action obligations and to improving the diversity of our workforce.”

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.

Department compliance program director Thomas Dowd said:

“Like other federal contractors, Google has a legal obligation to provide relevant information requested in the course of a routine compliance evaluation. … 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.”

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.