A Google engineering executive is suing the tech company, alleging that the company paid her “hundreds of thousands” less than male peers of equal stature, and retaliated against her after she complained about gender discrimination.
In the lawsuit filed Tuesday, Ulku Rowe accused Google of gender-based discrimination and pay discrimination, in violation of the US Equal Pay Act, stemming from the company allegedly paying her less than her male counterparts “for substantially equivalent work that required substantially equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and was performed under similar working conditions.”
Rowe is currently an engineering director at Google Cloud, where she’s been since March 2017. Rowe is seeking “damages” in the lawsuit, and that Google pay back her earnings she said she would have received if Google hadn’t engaged in its “unlawful treatment.”
The suit alleges that when Rowe was first hired as a technical director at Google, she was made a Level 8 employee, although her past experience put her more on par with a Level 9 position, which pays “hundreds of thousands of dollars” more. When Rowe raised those concerns, the hiring manager told her all technical directors were hired at Level 8, and that she was situated to make more than at her previous job at JPMorgan and take over Google Cloud’s financial services division, the lawsuit says.
After starting her job, the suit alleges Rowe learned that her male colleagues with similar backgrounds and job descriptions, who were also technical directors, were hired at Level 9. Rowe was also not given her promised annual equity refreshes that would have raised her annual salary above her compensation at her previous Wall Street job, according to the lawsuit. Further, when it came time to appoint a vice president for the financial services division, Rowe was allegedly passed over, and a “less-qualified” man who had been with Google for only six months was given the position.
The lawsuit says that Google’s human resources conducted a “cursory investigation” in November 2018 into Rowe’s complaints about “discriminatory pay and promotion practices,” but told her they didn’t find that the company had “committed any wrongdoing.”
In a statement to Business Insider, Google said it had conducted an investigation into Rowe’s “complaints regarding unfair pay and level-at-hire,” but that its findings “did not substantiate her concerns.”
Rowe’s lawsuit states that she was told in April 2019 that her position would change at Google, and was offered three options that were “reasonably perceived as demotions,” with fewer responsibilities and advancement opportunities. The lawsuit alleges that this was a retaliation to Rowe’s gender discrimination complaints.
Google didn’t comment further beyond saying that the multi-billion-dollar tech company “take[s] all complaints about unfair pay seriously.”
This isn’t the first time that Google has faced accusations of mistreating female employees and retaliating against workers who speak out about alleged discrimination. A memo from a Google employee who said she suffered discrimination and relation while pregnant went viral in August.
Thousands of Google employees participated in a mass walkout last year in protest of the company’s mishandling of sexual harassment cases and past allegations of sexual misconduct from senior executives. In its wake, two of the women who spearheaded the Google Walkout — Meredith Whittaker and Claire Stapleton — said they where retaliated against and demoted. Both Whittaker and Stapleton have since left the company.