Google discovers that Big Government has its downside

Google and its parent Alphabet Corporation have played the political correctness game adroitly, not simply “fitting in” but actually help create and sustain the culture of high tech progressivism that dominates the Bay Area and other tech meccas. For years, it has skated by on a useless motto, “Don’t be evil,” as if that vague injunction settled all moral questions. 

But any institution that prospers mightily will attract critics, anxious to substitute their priorities for the decisions management makes, preferably in the wake of a settlement that enriches lawyers and the purportedly offended victims.  Such is Google’s fate, as its high-pressure meritocracy has run up against the PC dogma that claims every possible demographic slice of humanity has precisely the same talents and aptitudes, so any differential in the pay or responsibility for different demographic segments in the workplace can only be explained by discrimination.

The result is one of those situations where I wish both sides could lose. Jack Nicas and Yoree Koh explain in the Wall Street Journal the gates of hell facing Google now that the feds (to whom Google sells stuff – tripping the wire that allows federal “auditing” of employment practices – are on its case and demanding lots and lots of data. For its part, Google seems unable to grasp the fact that it is now being held to the standards its own ideology and political donations support.

Google, which has long portrayed itself as one of the world’s best workplaces, faces government accusations that it underpays women and is resisting pressure to turn over salary data to disprove them.

The Labor Department sued Google in January after the company refused to submit 19 years of pay data for more than 21,000 employees for a routine audit into its pay practices. The department needs more Google salary data because an initial review of 2015 figures “found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce,” according to testimony from a Labor Department official in April.

Google claims its own studies show no such thing:

Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., GOOGL 0.97% says its annual salary analyses show no gender pay gap among its 74,000 employees. “So we were quite surprised” by the Labor Department’s accusations, “which came without any supporting data or methodology,” Google said in an April blog post. Google has declined to release the numbers behind its analyses.

The angry women are not amused:

“They [Google] say, ‘Trust us, there is no gender pay gap. We’ve got everything under control,’” said Natasha Lamb, managing partner at Arjuna Capital, a boutique investment firm that has pressed tech companies to release salary information. “A trust-us approach is no longer helpful or useful when other companies are disclosing the data. It makes it look like they have something to hide.” (snip)

Google has fought earlier efforts to lift the veil on pay. In 2015, then-Google engineer Erica Baker said she faced retaliation from her managers for starting a crowdsourced spreadsheet, in which approximately 5% of employees shared their salaries, that showed disparities. Ms. Baker said the spreadsheet helped some employees negotiate improved salaries, but she left Google that year. Google declined to comment.

For the past two years, Arjuna Capital has requested that Google disclose the percentage of female pay to male pay. Seven other firms complied last year, including Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.

Google abruptly reneged on an agreement with Arjuna last year to reveal the figure if Arjuna withdrew a shareholder proposal requesting the tech firm to do so, according to emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. “After further consideration, we are not able to agree to the proposal,” a Google executive wrote in April to Ms. Lamb, according to the emails. Google declined to comment on the emails. (snip)

Earlier this month at Alphabet’s shareholder meeting, Ms. Lamb again pressed executives for data. A Google human-resources executive answered that in-depth analyses of 52 separate job categories last year showed the company has no gender pay gap. “We are really committed to this and absolutely confident in our processes,” he said. Google then moved the meeting along.

Google said it has already provided the Labor Department with two years of data among 740,000 pages of documents. The department hasn’t filed formal charges of pay discrimination against Google, and it is unclear if it will. The Labor Department didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Anyone who bothers to observe children in the United States realizes that boys and girls – on average (there are many exceptions at both ends of the bell curve) – spend their time differently, and have different orientations. This ancient wisdom is now considered bigotry, however. In addition, as Thomas Sowell has so eloquently documented, different ethnic communities embrace different values and interests, and their members succeed or fail at endeavors depending on how much value and how much time they devote to perfecting their skills. The dominance of African Americans among NBA players does not reflect systemic discrimination against whites and Asians, after all. The same logic applies to code writing. It is skill that must be developed. Some kids spend their afternoons goofing around on computers when others are out shooting hoops or trying on clothes with their friends at stores in the mall.

Google is about to find out that it has no immunity, and that its staffing practices and culture are about to be judged by people with no responsibilities for outcomes. And those people will not be part of the judicial branch of government:

 An administrative law judge at the Labor Department is expected to rule soon.

As Mark J. Fitzgibbons has explored extensively on the these pages, administrative law has supplanted the Constitution and placed powers of the judiciary (including issuing subpoenas that make privacy concerns irrelevant) in the hands of bureaucrats who sit as judges on themselves.

Meanwhile, Google’s competitors in China, Japan, Europe, Russia, or anywhere else, laugh at the obstacles being erected to hobble Google. They maintain the freedom to hire the best and reward them commensurately with their work. In the end, they will do better than a competitor forced to hire people based on their ethnicity, gender, or other criterion.