Oracle accuses US of underhand tactics because discrimination case 'doomed to fail'

Big Red claims Labor Dept has 'secret pact' with private plaintiff's lawyers

Oracle has accused the US Department of Labor (DoL) of bringing new claims into a pay discrimination suit because it knows its original case against the Silicon Valley corp will fail, and of "coordinating" with the lawyers for plaintiffs in a civil case.

The Silicon Valley corp said a second set of claims filed by the DoL's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) last month were brought in "bad faith" and should be thrown out.

The allegations – that Oracle had engaged in "stark patterns of discrimination" against women and minorities since 2013 – are part of a wider case first brought in 2017, which was based on a study of Oracle's hiring and pay policies dating back to 2013.

The proceedings were paused while the two went through a "mediation" process, but this failed and the OFCCP kicked things off again with its fresh batch of complaints in January.

If they are proved to be true, the IT titan's government contracts would be placed at risk – which explains why Oracle is at pains to have the whole business knocked on the head.

In its counter to the second complaint, filed yesterday*, Oracle argued the government could have made these claims at any point in the past four years, but had only now chosen to "change course", because it "realizes its existing claims against Oracle are doomed to fail".

As such, the OFCCP "wants some alternative theories – ones for which it currently has no facts to support but hopes to develop through additional discovery", the firm claimed.

In addition, the DoL's second amended complaint came in just days after a filing in a separate, civil action case, in which a group of plaintiffs said Oracle had paid female staff $13,000 less on average than their male counterparts.

Oracle has accused the OFCCP of having a "secret oral agreement" with this group to "bolster their respective claims" (in 2018, the groups signed a confidential agreement to share certain documents, materials and "mental impressions").

"Following a year-long stay and a failed attempt to resolve this matter, OFCCP seeks to try this case in the press as a means of exerting pressure on Oracle – perhaps in coordination with private plaintiffs' counsel," it said.

However, Adam Pulver, a former DoL lawyer told Bloomberg Law that there was "no evidence of anything nefarious" in the situation.

"There is nothing problematic about private lawyers and government investigators sharing information (not subject to a protective order) as to the status of cases and legal theories," he said.

On the allegations themselves, Big Red said that the claims of gross pay disparities are "gratuitous" and "demonstrably false".

For instance, it said, the complaint "assumes that employees who share a job title or job code perform similar work".

In addition, it said that the analyses upon which the second complaint was made are outside the time period at issue in the compliance audit that kicked the case off.

"OFCCP first must prove a violation that took place during the audit period itself" before it can tack on any other damages for a "continuing violation", Oracle said. ®

*Oracle's response in the case, published by Bloomberg Law, is available here.

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