Judge slams data request in Google gender case

An administrative law judge has ruled that Labor Department officials investigating gender pay bias had asked Google (GOOG) for data in a way that's too broad and intrusive on employee privacy.

Google must still provide data, including contact information, on 8,000 employees — just not data on the more than 25,000 workers originally sought. Google applauded the decision, saying it was "pleased" with the ruling.

"Assuming the recommended decision becomes final, we'll comply with the remainder of the order, and provide the much more limited data set of information the judge approved, including the contact information for a smaller sample of up to 8,000 employees," Eileen Naughton, vice president of people operations, wrote in the post. 

At the heart of the case is whether Google pays women less than men. The government sued Google in January, demanding statistics on employee compensation. Companies with federal contracts like Google are required to comply with federal civil rights law. The government, which said Google was selected randomly for an audit, refused to hand over data despite repeated requests.

At the time, Google said it performs a "comprehensive and robust analysis of pay across genders and we have found no gender pay gap."

The Labor Department said in April that it found "systemic compensation disparities." But Google denied the charges, saying it conducts rigorous analysis to ensure that its pay practices are gender-blind.

The decision, issued on Friday, is preliminary. The Labor Department can file objections before it becomes final. The ruling doesn't yet decide, either way, whether Google discriminated.