Google, which says it doesn’t underpay women, may not have to reveal as much as the U.S. government seeks

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A federal court in California moved on Friday to spare Google from turning over a trove of information about its employees to the U.S. government as the feds continue to investigate whether the tech giant underpays its female workers.

Since January, Google has resisted a demand by the Department of Labor that it share data — including the complete salary history and contact information for more than 21,000 employees — as part of a probe into potential "systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce," the government previously has argued.

Google has repeatedly rejected those allegations, while arguing in court that the Labor Department's requests for data are onerous and would jeopardize the privacy of Google's employees. Administrative Law Judge Steven Berlin on Friday agreed; in his ruling, he sought to impose limits on the government's request — a recommendation that will become final unless federal lawyers seek an appeal.

Under the proposed order, Google must still provide the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, or OFCCP, with more data related to employees' demographic information. That includes name, gender and ethnicity, as well as their salary, as of September 2014. It's the second so-called "snapshot" of Google's workforce sought by the agency, which obtained similar information about the tech giant's employees from September 2015.

But Google has been spared from the government's other demands — including a request that it submit contact information for all 21,000 of its employees so that the Labor Department can more fully investigate claims of unequal pay.

Citing fears about hacking — and recent cyber attacks on the U.S. government — the court instead recommended the agency seek and obtain from Google the telephone numbers and email addresses from up to 5,000 of its workers, provided the company already has that data in its possession. Google has 30 days from the moment the order becomes final to share that information. Federal investigators may then seek a second round of contact information from 3,000 individuals for follow-up interviews.

By Tony Romm,

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