MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (KTVU) - Mountain-view based Google is facing a lawsuit alleging the tech giant pays men, more than women for the same work. The most recent woman to join the lawsuit recently talked to KTVU about her experience, and what she hopes will change.
Heidi Lamar lives in the East Bay: she just joined a lawsuit against her former employer, Google. She worked at Google as a preschool teacher for almost four years. "All of our work was play-based," said Lamar, "we did a lot of partnering with families to create the most high-quality environment we could for these children." Lamar said when she was hired in 2013, Google told her it was its policy to hire all educators at "level one": the lowest category, in Google's tiered pay scale. Lamar said she started at Google making $18.51 an hour.
About three and a half years in, a conversation with a co-worker opened her eyes. "We were talking about, 'oh isn't it frustrating that you have to be hired as a level one?' and one of my colleagues said 'what are you talking about? I got hired at a level two'," said Lamar, "and he was a man."
That man was making more than two dollars an hour more than Lamar. She said he didn't have more experience, or a better education. Lamar complained to her managers, and said Google's human resources found no evidence of gender-related bias in the hiring process.
"I sat with that for a couple of weeks and then decided i could not stay at Google," said Lamar, "I felt like staying at that company would feel like I was compromising my values."
Earlier this year Lamar joined a lawsuit filed by San Francisco attorney Jim Finberg that alleges Google systemically pays women, less than men.
"I don't think Google is alone," said Finberg, "I think there are problems throughout the valley for paying women less for substantially similar work."
Finberg said what happens in this legal fight could have implications throughout tech, and beyond.
Google declined to talk with KTVU, but pointed to recent action it took to close the gender pay gap: saying there is now "zero difference" in pay for 89 percent of its workers after the company examined its pay practices and increased the pay of about 200 workers, based on what it found.
Whatever happens in court, Finberg says workers can take action, now: he urges people to share their pay information with their peers, saying "salary transparency" helps eliminate gender and racial pay gaps:
California workers are legally protected against retaliation, from their employers if they discuss wages.
Employers can't legally use or even ask for an applicant's prior salary to determine their pay:
Some say the current climate of empowerment and equality, largely stemming from the "me too" movement, would prompt them to share their own salary information.
Heidi Lamar now works at a non-profit preschool in Berkeley. She is making less than she was at Google. "It's hard to describe but i just feel lighter, in a sense," said Lamar, "if any giant company can make amends and create a system that compensates people more fairly, it might be Google."