By B.N. Frank
Google has been accused of many things including
- Firing a software engineer who warned that Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) could hurt marginalized groups
- Listening to customers through its products (see 1, 2)
- Collecting students’ biometric data with the company’s educational tools
- Genocide complicity in China
Now the company is being accused of knowingly underpaying temp workers.
From Ars Technica:
By Ron Amadeo
A new investigation from The Guardian pulls no punches while detailing Google’s treatment of temporary workers, saying, “Google has been illegally underpaying thousands of temporary workers in dozens of countries and delayed correcting the pay rates for more than two years as it attempted to cover up the problem.”
The Guardian says it has seen documents indicating that Google has known about this problem since 2019, and “rather than immediately correct the errors, the company dragged its feet for more than two years, the documents show, citing concern about the increased cost to departments that rely heavily on temporary workers, potential exposure to legal claims, and fear of negative press attention.”
Google employs many temp workers for various purposes across its tech empire, and many countries in the UK, Europe, and Asia have laws that mandate those workers be paid as much as regular employees. The Guardian report says that Google hasn’t been doing this and that “Google admitted the failures and said it would conduct an investigation after being contacted by the Guardian.”
Google Chief Compliance Officer Spyro Karetsos told the Guardian:
While the team hasn’t increased the comparator rate benchmarks for some years, actual pay rates for temporary staff have increased numerous times in that period. Most temporary staff are paid significantly more than the comparator rates.
Nevertheless, it’s clear that this process has not been handled consistent with the high standards to which we hold ourselves as a company. We’re doing a thorough review, and we’re committed to identifying and addressing any pay discrepancies that the team has not already addressed. And we’ll be conducting a review of our compliance practices in this area. In short, we’re going to figure 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 perks for full-time employees, the company also employs an equal number of temp workers as a second-class “shadow workforce.” Bloomberg detailed Google’s use of temp workers in 2018, saying, “They serve meals and clean offices. They write code, handle sales calls, recruit staff, screen YouTube videos, test self-driving cars and even manage entire teams—a sea of skilled laborers that fuel the $795 billion company but reap few of the benefits and opportunities available to direct employees.”
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