Software maker Oracle is accused of engaging in discriminatory practices that resulted in thousands of its women, black and Asian employees being underpaid by more than $400 million.
The allegations emerged Tuesday in a filing made in a two-year-old case that is being pursued by a part of the U.S. Labor Department that examines the pay practices of government contractors. The agency estimates Oracle has government contracts worth about $100 million annually.
The filing cites evidence that Oracle underpaid women and ethnic minorities for similar work done by white men by as much 25 percent. The pay disparity was partly because Oracle relied on prior pay histories to set salaries, locking some workers into lower salaries than others, according to Bloomberg Law.
The practice of asking for previous salary history is increasingly coming under fire, with critics saying it perpetuates gender and minority imbalances in pay. Last year, Massachusetts enacted its new Equal Pay Act, which prohibits employers from paying lower wages to workers of a different gender who perform comparable work, which in most cases are women.
The law also bars salary histories as a defense for unequal pay, meaning an employer can't argue that a man is paid more, or a woman less, because of their previous salary history.
The alleged practices affected more than 5,000 women, more than 11,000 Asians and fewer than 30 blacks from 2013 through 2016.
Oracle declined to comment.