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Former Google employee on gender discrimination settlement: 'I was under-leveled'

HyperComply Head of Product Kelli Wisuri and Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP Partner Anne Shaver join Yahoo Finance Live to discuss Google’s gender discrimination lawsuit settlement.

Video Transcript

- Google is addressing allegations of gender discrimination by paying $118 million to settle a class action lawsuit covering around 15,500 women. One of those women joins us now, Kelly Wisuri, now HyperComply head of product as well as her attorney, Anne Shaver, partner at Liefff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein. Great to have both of you on the show. I just kind of want to start off with you, Kelli, just to kind of break down and give us a foundational understanding of the lawsuit itself, what you saw at Google, what happened to you and other women at the company as well.

KELLI WISURI: Yeah, sure. So I worked at Google in executive engagement, meeting with the executive teams of Google's biggest clients to help them understand the value of brand marketing versus more traditional forms of marketing like TV and radio and to persuade them to make large financial investments in digital with Google. And what I saw there is that I was under leveled. When I joined Google, I was placed in the lowest job level possible for full time employees, even though I had years of experience in the field prior. And when I finally decided to leave Google-- this is when it really hit home for me-- I was asked to write a job description for my replacement. And the minimum required level for my job that I was already doing was two whole levels above my own. That means that I would have needed to be promoted twice, which at Google can take years, to qualify for the job that I was already doing.

ALEXIS KEENAN: Kelli, it's Alexis here. So explain to us how exactly you learned that you were underpaid.

KELLI WISURI: Well, it has to do with under leveling. Pay aligns with the job level that you are assigned. And within a job level, there is a salary band. And when you go up a job level, you are eligible for a higher salary band. So it was in learning that I was under leveled that I learned that I was underpaid.

ALEXIS KEENAN: OK, and Anne, I want to turn to you now. Let's talk about the actual dollar amount of the settlement and some extras that it entails. It's $118 million that is said to cover 15,550 women who worked at the company from 2013 going forward. But also Google is agreeing, you say, to some third party monitoring. So first off, how did that money get paid to the recipients who are eligible? And what will that third party monitoring entail?

ANNE SHAVER: Sure, thank you. So the $118 million settlement fund will be allocated to the class members using the formula that accounts for how much damage they suffered as a result of the alleged underpayment and under leveling to women during the class period here. So it takes into account things like an individual's job title, their tenure, how much they earned, and other factors that account for how much one earns at Google, as well as whether or not they were part of the group of employees who were hired between 2013 and August 2017 who we allege were under leveled as a result of Google's practice during that time period of relying on prior pay to set compensation at time of hire.

As you mentioned, the lawsuit includes other relief, not just the monetary damages. We negotiated for robust policy and practice changes at Google, which includes the hiring of an independent industrial organizational psychologist to study Google's process for setting level at time of hire and make recommendations on how that process can be made more equitable. Similarly, to hire an independent labor economist to study Google's annual pay equity process and make recommendations on how that process and the methodology for that process might be tweaked to ensure pay equity for all at Google. And, finally, the retention of an independent third party monitor to monitor and report out on all of these efforts on an annual basis.

- Kelli, I just want to turn the question to you. I mean, all those measures in place, you would imagine or you would hope would improve the or at least narrow the disparity at Google. But it seems like there's also a lot of cultural things that need to be put in place there as well. So having been at the company, what would you like to see from Google management that beyond hitting these checks but checkboxes is going to make sure this isn't an issue for incoming women at the company as well?

KELLI WISURI: Yeah, great question. I would love to see more women in leadership. Because when women are in leadership, these issues tend to get looked at more and taken more seriously. So that's probably the top thing I would love to see.

ALEXIS KEENAN: And this one's for you from Alexis here. I wanted to ask you about the preliminary hearing that's happening today. What exactly is the judge going to look at in this settlement agreement when the lawyers are before the judge today? And also, I should note that Google is not admitting any wrongdoing as part of this agreement.

ANNE SHAVER: So any time you have a class action settlement, the court has to approve it. The court has to review the settlement and make sure that it is going to be fair and in the best interest of all the class members. And the court does that in a two-part approval process today. We were scheduled to have the preliminary approval hearing.

The court actually issued a tentative ruling yesterday asking the parties to answer some questions that the court has. And then the court is going to reschedule that hearing hopefully for the end of July. So we will submit some additional briefings to the court to answer its questions about the settlement. And then we will move forward with the approval process as planned.

- All right, Kelli Wisuri at HyperComply and Anne Shaver, partner at Lieff Cabraser, thanks so much for joining us and sharing your story. Really appreciatt it. And thanks to Alexis Keenan as well.