A new investigation from The Guardian makes no sense, describing Google’s treatment of temporary workers: “Google illegally underpaid thousands of temporary workers in dozens of countries and delayed correcting wage rates for more than two years because it tried to fix the problem. “
The Guardian says it has seen documents indicating that Google has been aware of this issue since 2019, and “rather than immediately correcting the errors, the company dragged its feet for more than two years, the documents show. citing concerns about increased costs for departments that rely heavily on temporary workers, potential exposure to legal claims and fear of negative press coverage.”
Google employs many temps for various purposes in its tech empire, and many countries in the UK, Europe and Asia have laws that require these workers to be paid the same as regular workers. tThe Guardian report says Google has failed to do so and that “Google has admitted the errors and said it would investigate after the Guardian contacted him.”
Google Chief Compliance Officer Spyro Karetsos told the Guardian:
While the team hasn’t raised the benchmarks of the comparator rates for several years, actual wages for temporary workers have increased many times over during that period. Most temporary workers are paid significantly more than the comparative rates.
Nevertheless, it is clear that this process has not been handled in accordance with the high standards we set as a company. We conduct a thorough review and we make every effort to identify and address any wage gaps that the team has not yet addressed. And we will review our compliance practices in this area. In short, we are going to find out what went wrong here [and] why it happened, and we’re going to make it right.
While Google is known for its lavish campuses and generous benefits for full-time employees, the company also employs an equal number of temps as second-rate “shadow workers.” Bloomberg detailed Google’s use of temps in 2018: “They serve meals and clean offices. They write code, handle sales calls, recruit staff, screen YouTube videos, test self-driving cars, and even lead entire teams — a sea of skilled workers.” workers fueling the $795 billion company, but taking few of the benefits and opportunities available to manage workers.”
Today, The Guardian says, “The departments that rely most on temps include recruiting, marketing and Waymo, Google’s autonomous vehicle subsidiary.” Internally, these workers are referred to as “TVCs” or “temps, suppliers and contractors,” and many don’t even get health insurance.
While the US does not have equal pay for agency workers, an unnamed whistleblower, represented by Whistleblower Aid, is going after Google through the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Google may be missing something like $100 million in international payment parity obligations in its quarterly financial reports, which would be a violation of US securities laws. The Guardian also has a statement from John Tye, founder and chief disclosure officer of Whistleblower Aid:
The disclosure makes it clear that Google has not only broken labor laws around the world, but has misled investors about major legal and financial obligations. The lawful, anonymous disclosure of whistleblowers is a critical step in ensuring Google is held accountable. We urge the SEC to take enforcement action against Google and protect investors’ rights to receive complete and accurate information.
According to the report, an internal audit of Google’s employees found that the company had more than 1,000 temporary workers in countries with pay equality laws. However, due to the “temporary” nature of agency workers, the number of victims of wage theft in two years would be much higher than a one-day snapshot would show. An internal memo stated that affected employees were paid 12% and 50% less than they should have been.
According to the report, Google’s extended workforce team responsible for hiring temps debated what to do about underpaid workers, and the team was primarily concerned about Google’s reputation rather than looking after its employees. The report quotes compliance manager Alan Barry as writing: “If and when” [temps] be aware [that they are being underpaid,] they will seek compensation but will want to avoid lawsuits. Strategy must therefore be guided by an assessment of the internal PR/reputation risk and the risk that wage differences become known within our temporary workers.”
Well, now they know.