In the midst of a lawsuit brought by the Department of Labor, tech giant Google reportedly claimed Friday that it would be too expensive to gather wage data which could reveal whether it’s underpaying its female employees. The argument is drawing heavy scrutiny, however, considering the price tag the company testified to earlier this week―representatives from Google pegged the financial cost at $100,000, and the required time expenditure at 500 hours.
The Department of Labor has balked at this excuse. According to the Guardian, its attorney Ian Eliasoph derided the notion that this was somehow an unacceptable or prohibitive price for Google to pay.
“Google would be able to absorb the cost as easy as a dry kitchen sponge could absorb a single drop of water,” Eliasoph said.
For some perspective, Google is currently one of the most profitable countries on Earth, generating more than $20 billion in income in 2016. And with an workforce north of 20,000 employees, 500 hours worth of time doesn’t exactly sound impossible.
At issue is whether Google had been paying fair, equitable wages to women. The Department of Labor, for its part, accused the massive tech company of “systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce” in a San Francisco courtroom on Friday, a claim that the company rejected as “unfounded” in a statement to Fortune. Said Google:
We vehemently disagree with Ms. Whipper’s claim. Every year, we do a comprehensive and robust analysis of pay across genders and we have found no gender pay gap. Other than making an unfounded statement which we heard for the first time in court, the DoL hasn’t provided any data, or shared its methodology.
Of course, it’s hard to prove whether a claim is founded without having the relevant data to pour over. According to the Guardian, Google lawyer Lisa Barnett Sween condemned the Department of Labor’s demands as too broad, and framed Google as the victim of governmental overreach. “This is obviously a very time-consuming and burdensome project,” she said. “Our courts must act to check this abuse of power.”
It’s worth noting that Google claimed in April to have “closed the gender pay gap globally,” and also claimed it provides “equal pay across races in the U.S.” in a tweet for Equal Pay Day.
Those are big claims, and they were quickly contradicted when the Department of Labor made its initial accusations just days later. Now, it’s clear that the tech titan is hoping to avoid any trenchant government scrutiny of its pay practices, characterizing such efforts as an unfair burden.
Whether it’ll win out remains to be seen, obviously. But this much seems clear: A multi-billion dollar company crying foul about an estimated $100,000 price tag―all to determine whether or not it’s discriminating against its women employees―probably won’t be a crowd-pleaser.