Google employees are comparing their salary details in a bid to be fairly paid

Managers at the US web giant are allegedly furious at the grassroots action

Jonathan Owen
Wednesday 22 July 2015 10:28 BST
Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California
Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California (Getty Images)

Thousands of Google employees have shared their salary details with each other in a bid to ensure they are fairly paid, a former staff member has claimed.

Managers at the US web giant - which is generally seen as being an enlightened employer - were allegedly furious at the grassroots action, which saw colleagues willingly enter their salaries into a shared spreadsheet.

It is common practice for firms to discourage staff from discussing their salary details - partly to avoid the discovery of potentially embarrassing pay gaps between people doing similar jobs.

The claims centre on an internal spreadsheet allegedly created by software engineer named Erica Baker – who spent almost a decade working at Google – and a group of her her former colleagues.

After the database was posted on Google’s internal network, “It took off like wildfire. It got reshared all over the place,”claimed Ms Baker, who left the company in May this year.

A reception area at Google's offices in Washington (Getty)
A reception area at Google's offices in Washington (Getty) (Getty Images)

In a series of tweets posted a few days ago, she continued: “People started adding pivot tables that did spreadsheet magic that highlighted not great things re:pay,”

Ms Baker claimed that after news of the spreadsheet’s existence spread around the company, she was summoned by her boss. “Higher up people weren’t happy. She wasn’t happy. Why did I do it?” she tweeted, recalling the encounter. She claims to have responded to pressure from her manager by pointing out it is illegal to retaliate against workers for telling each other what they earn.

Ms Baker, a former software engineer at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, claims she was targeted for her efforts to bring greater salary transparency to the firm, which announced quarterly profits of £2.38bn in April.

Ms Baker claimed that before she left Google, “about 5% of former co. had shared their salary...People asked for & got equitable pay based on data in the sheet.”

If her claim is correct, this would mean that around 2,680 of Google’s 53,600 employees had shared their income details.

The former Google worker commented: “The world didn’t end. Everything didn’t go up in flames because salaries got shared. But shit got better for some people.”

Ms Baker, who now works at Slack Technologies in San Francisco, says she was prompted to speak out publicly after Google celebrated the African American suffragette and civil rights leader Ida B Wells on its homepage last week.

“Fighting for justice and fairness inside Google doesn’t go over well. Salary sharing is only one example,” she said. “Guaranteed that if Ida Wells were alive & working at Google today, there’d be many private calendar meetings focused on ‘her future’ there,” she added.

Approached for comment yesterday, a Google spokesperson said: “I’m afraid we do not have anything to share on this at the moment.”

The claims threaten to tarnish Google’s reputation as a model employer. Like other internet giants, it makes much of the facilities and rewards available to talented staff.

Google was ranked the world’s best company to work for in 2014 by Fortune magazine and the Great Place to Work Institute – the sixth time that Google has topped the ranking. Employees listd free healthcare and travel insurance, legal advice, grants to study, and generous parental perks as among the benefits.

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