Tech giant Google has agreed to pay $118 million to settle a class-action gender discrimination lawsuit, which claimed Google discriminated against women on pay and promotions.

The class-action suit was initially filed in San Francisco Superior Court in 2017 by three former women employees of Google, who had alleged the company appointed them to lower job levels than similarly qualified males. This, according to them, resulted in low pay, and no promotion or transition to other teams, which hampered their career growth.

“As a woman who's spent her entire career in the tech industry, I'm optimistic that the actions Google has agreed to take as part of this settlement will ensure more equity for women,” said one of the plaintiffs Holly Pease. “Google, since its founding, has led the tech industry. They also have an opportunity to lead the charge to ensure inclusion and equity for women in tech.”

Plaintiffs’ law firms Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP and Altshuler Berzon LLP say they reached an agreement with Google, in which it will pay $118 million to settle a class-action gender discrimination lawsuit, Ellis v. Google LLC, pending since 2017.

The settlement covers around 15,500 female employees in 236 job titles in California since September 14, 2013, it adds.

In addition to monetary relief, an independent third-party expert will analyse Google’s levelling-at-hire practices and an independent labour economist will review its pay equity studies. An external settlement monitor will supervise the post-settlement work over the next three years.

Moreover, Google didn't admit to any wrongdoings while signing the settlement, which a judge is yet to approve.

Google spokesman Chris Pappas says signing the agreement was in the best interest of everyone. "While we strongly believe in the equity of our policies and practices, after nearly five years of litigation, both sides agreed that resolution of the matter, without any admission or findings, was in the best interest of everyone."

The lawsuit had challenged Google’s pay and levelling processes, and plaintiffs believe these programs will help ensure women are not paid less than their male counterparts who perform substantially similar work, and that Google’s challenged levelling practices are equitable. Google says it's committed to fair and equal treatment of all employees when it comes to paying or hiring or levelling.

The plaintiffs included Kelly Ellis, Holly Pease, Kelli Wisuri, and Heidi Lamar -- all of these women worked for Google in California in various capacities since September 14, 2013.

As a next step, the court will now set a hearing date for preliminary settlement approval, which if approved will result in the third-party administrator issuing notice to the class members.

If the court grants final settlement approval, the third-party administrator will allocate settlement amounts based on an objective formula to each qualifying class member, says the statement.

Plaintiffs’ co-counsel Kelly Dermody says they believe this settlement advances gender equity at Google and will be precedent-setting for the industry.

"We are delighted that in this settlement agreement and order, Google is also affirming its commitment to be a leader in ensuring pay equity and equal employment opportunity for all of their employees," says Jim Finberg, another plaintiff co-counsel.

Companies like Google have been receiving end of employees who have accused them of disparities in pay against women and minorities, even though they claim improving working conditions and offering diversity at work is a prime priority for them. Before this in 2021, Google had agreed to pay $3.8 million to the US labour department for several accusations of discrimination against women and Asians.

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