LinkedIn settles Dept of Labor charges it underpaid women

Microsoft's social network for thinkfluencers disagrees with Uncle Sam, coughs up $1.8m

Microsoft's LinkedIn social network has agreed to settle allegations it systematically underpaid women in engineering, product, and marketing roles.

The US Department of Labor (DoL) on Tuesday announced the settlement on behalf of 686 female workers in California. The government said an evaluation conducted by DoL's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs found that between March 1, 2015, though March 1, 2017, LinkedIn failed to provide equal pay for women in its San Francisco and Sunnyvale, California, offices.

Specifically, LinkedIn was accused of violating Executive Order 11246, which prohibits federal contracts from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin. EO 11246 dates back to the Johnson administration in 1965 and has been amended since then. The enforcement action also reflects Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974.

The settlement applies to LinkedIn's engineering and marketing positions in San Francisco and to its engineering and product jobs in Sunnyvale. The agreement calls for LinkedIn: to pay $1.8m in back wages and interest to affected workers; to conduct staff training covering non-discrimination; and to provide gender-neutral compensation for at least the next three years.

In addition to recovering $1.8 million in back wages and interest for these workers, our agreement will ensure that LinkedIn better understands its obligations as a federal contractor and complies in the future

LinkedIn will also be obligated to revise its compensation practices and policies and to accept government monitoring to ensure the company is complying with its federal agreement.

"Our agreement with LinkedIn Corp resolves alleged pay discrimination that denied 686 female workers at the company’s San Francisco and Sunnyvale locations their full wages,” said Jane Suhr, Regional Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) in San Francisco, in a statement. "In addition to recovering $1.8 million in back wages and interest for these workers, our agreement will ensure that LinkedIn better understands its obligations as a federal contractor and complies in the future."

LinkedIn in a statement posted to its website acknowledged the settlement – which really is tiny change for the tech giant – while disputing the government's claims.

"While we have agreed to settle this matter, we do not agree with the government’s claims; LinkedIn pays and has paid its employees fairly and equitably when comparing similar work," the statement read.

The DoL has not always prevailed when challenging company pay practices. In 2017, the DoL accused Oracle of pay discrimination against female, African American, and Asian employees and of favoring Asian employees in its recruitment. But three years later, the judge hearing that case ruled the government failed to prove its claim.

In its pushback against the now settled charges that it paid female workers unfairly during the period from March 1, 2015, through March 1, 2017, LinkedIn cited a survey of its own conducted during a different time period – 2021 – that found "globally, for every $1.00 earned by men, our female employees earn $0.999." And in the US that year, LinkedIn employees of color earned $1.00 for every $1.00 earned by white employees, the company said.

Wendy Musell, managing partner of law offices of Wendy Musell and of counsel for employment-law specialists Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP, told The Register in a phone interview she expects the settlement will reverberate through Silicon Valley and beyond.

The decision is specifically relevant to companies with federal contracts that do more than $10,000 in annual business with the US government, said Musell, noting that it came from the OFCCP, an agency that gets its marching orders from the executive branch.

"For companies that have federal contracts, one may see that the US Department of Labor will actually enforce these laws," said Musell. "The prior administration did not and did not require reporting [of workforce demographic data]."

Musell expects more companies will pay attention to gender-based pay equity for fear of getting caught.

"This is not the first time pay equity issues have been raised in Silicon Valley and I'm sure it will not be the last," she said. "But what this says is the Department of Labor will be watching and that itself is a big change."

Government attentiveness however is not the only scrutiny companies should consider, however. Investment firms are also paying attention.

"Proactively managing pay equity is essential, not simply to avoid legal action and reputational hits like the DoL settlement with LinkedIn, but to ensure companies are attracting and retaining valuable, diverse, talent," said Natasha Lamb, a managing partner and portfolio manager at sustainable investment advisor Arjuna Capital, in an email to The Register. "We have successfully pressed 27 companies to engage in annual audits and reporting to ensure pay gaps are measured and managed."

Michael Passoff, CEO of Proxy Impact, a shareholder advocacy firm, told The Register in an email that most companies do not provide gender pay gap data.

"That lack of disclosure hides pay equity problems and makes them vulnerable to regulatory, reputational and legal risks," said Passoff. "LinkedIn needs to annually report on its gender pay gap so investors, consumers and employees can see that it is making progress towards pay equity.

"By comparison, LinkedIn UK provides an annual gender pay gap report which showed a 20 percent unadjusted median pay gap and a 50 percent unadjusted bonus pay gap between men and women in 2021. US investors and employees should receive the same level of information that LinkedIn UK provides." ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Quantum internet within grasp as scientists show off entanglement demo
    Teleportation of quantum information key to future secure data transfer

    Researchers in the Netherlands have shown they can transmit quantum information via an intermediary node, a feature necessary to make the so-called quantum internet possible.

    In recent years, scientists have argued that the quantum internet presents a more desirable network for transferring secure data, in addition to being necessary when connecting multiple quantum systems. All of this has been attracting investment from the US government, among others.

    Despite the promise, there are still vital elements missing for the creation of a functional quantum internet.

    Continue reading
  • Drone ship carrying yet more drones launches in China
    Zhuhai Cloud will carry 50 flying and diving machines it can control with minimal human assistance

    Chinese academics have christened an ocean research vessel that has a twist: it will sail the seas with a complement of aerial and ocean-going drones and no human crew.

    The Zhu Hai Yun, or Zhuhai Cloud, launched in Guangzhou after a year of construction. The 290-foot-long mothership can hit a top speed of 18 knots (about 20 miles per hour) and will carry 50 flying, surface, and submersible drones that launch and self-recover autonomously. 

    According to this blurb from the shipbuilder behind its construction, the Cloud will also be equipped with a variety of additional observational instruments "which can be deployed in batches in the target sea area, and carry out task-oriented adaptive networking to achieve three-dimensional view of specific targets." Most of the ship is an open deck where flying drones can land and be stored. The ship is also equipped with launch and recovery equipment for its aquatic craft. 

    Continue reading
  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • SEC probes Musk for not properly disclosing Twitter stake
    Meanwhile, social network's board rejects resignation of one its directors

    America's financial watchdog is investigating whether Elon Musk adequately disclosed his purchase of Twitter shares last month, just as his bid to take over the social media company hangs in the balance. 

    A letter [PDF] from the SEC addressed to the tech billionaire said he "[did] not appear" to have filed the proper form detailing his 9.2 percent stake in Twitter "required 10 days from the date of acquisition," and asked him to provide more information. Musk's shares made him one of Twitter's largest shareholders. The letter is dated April 4, and was shared this week by the regulator.

    Musk quickly moved to try and buy the whole company outright in a deal initially worth over $44 billion. Musk sold a chunk of his shares in Tesla worth $8.4 billion and bagged another $7.14 billion from investors to help finance the $21 billion he promised to put forward for the deal. The remaining $25.5 billion bill was secured via debt financing by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays, and others. But the takeover is not going smoothly.

    Continue reading
  • Cloud security unicorn cuts 20% of staff after raising $1.3b
    Time to play blame bingo: Markets? Profits? Too much growth? Russia? Space aliens?

    Cloud security company Lacework has laid off 20 percent of its employees, just months after two record-breaking funding rounds pushed its valuation to $8.3 billion.

    A spokesperson wouldn't confirm the total number of employees affected, though told The Register that the "widely speculated number on Twitter is a significant overestimate."

    The company, as of March, counted more than 1,000 employees, which would push the jobs lost above 200. And the widely reported number on Twitter is about 300 employees. The biz, based in Silicon Valley, was founded in 2015.

    Continue reading
  • Talos names eight deadly sins in widely used industrial software
    Entire swaths of gear relies on vulnerability-laden Open Automation Software (OAS)

    A researcher at Cisco's Talos threat intelligence team found eight vulnerabilities in the Open Automation Software (OAS) platform that, if exploited, could enable a bad actor to access a device and run code on a targeted system.

    The OAS platform is widely used by a range of industrial enterprises, essentially facilitating the transfer of data within an IT environment between hardware and software and playing a central role in organizations' industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) efforts. It touches a range of devices, including PLCs and OPCs and IoT devices, as well as custom applications and APIs, databases and edge systems.

    Companies like Volvo, General Dynamics, JBT Aerotech and wind-turbine maker AES are among the users of the OAS platform.

    Continue reading
  • Despite global uncertainty, $500m hit doesn't rattle Nvidia execs
    CEO acknowledges impact of war, pandemic but says fundamentals ‘are really good’

    Nvidia is expecting a $500 million hit to its global datacenter and consumer business in the second quarter due to COVID lockdowns in China and Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Despite those and other macroeconomic concerns, executives are still optimistic about future prospects.

    "The full impact and duration of the war in Ukraine and COVID lockdowns in China is difficult to predict. However, the impact of our technology and our market opportunities remain unchanged," said Jensen Huang, Nvidia's CEO and co-founder, during the company's first-quarter earnings call.

    Those two statements might sound a little contradictory, including to some investors, particularly following the stock selloff yesterday after concerns over Russia and China prompted Nvidia to issue lower-than-expected guidance for second-quarter revenue.

    Continue reading
  • Another AI supercomputer from HPE: Champollion lands in France
    That's the second in a week following similar system in Munich also aimed at researchers

    HPE is lifting the lid on a new AI supercomputer – the second this week – aimed at building and training larger machine learning models to underpin research.

    Based at HPE's Center of Excellence in Grenoble, France, the new supercomputer is to be named Champollion after the French scholar who made advances in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs in the 19th century. It was built in partnership with Nvidia using AMD-based Apollo computer nodes fitted with Nvidia's A100 GPUs.

    Champollion brings together HPC and purpose-built AI technologies to train machine learning models at scale and unlock results faster, HPE said. HPE already provides HPC and AI resources from its Grenoble facilities for customers, and the broader research community to access, and said it plans to provide access to Champollion for scientists and engineers globally to accelerate testing of their AI models and research.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022