Women and minority employees still fighting for pay equality
Ingrid Avendano, Roxana Lopez, and Ana Medina are female Latina software engineers employed by Uber, a multibillion dollar company that provides on-demand transportation and food delivery services globally. The engineers sued Uber, on behalf on themselves and all aggrieved employees in California, accusing Uber of violating California’s Equal Pay Act for failing to provide equal compensation for work requiring equal skill, effort, and responsibility.
The employees alleged that Uber maintains uniform employment, compensation, performance review, and promotion policies throughout the State of California. As a result of Uber’s policies and practices, female engineers and engineers of color (i.e., Latino, African-American, or American Indian) receive less compensation and are promoted less frequently than their male and white or Asian-American counterparts.
According to the complaint, Uber uses a “stack ranking” system for evaluating employee performance, which requires supervisors to rank employees from worst to best. The employees claimed that this was not truly based on an employee’s performance but on subjective and arbitrary factors. More troublingly, the “stack ranking” system was implemented in a way that discriminated against the plaintiffs.
Female employees and employees of color are said to be systematically undervalued compared to male and white or Asian American peers because the former receive lower rankings despite equal or better performance. This resulted in lower performance review scores, which in turn resulted in lower pay and fewer promotions among female employees and employees of color. Thus, Uber paid female engineers and engineers of color received less compensation (salaries, bonuses, other cash compensations, stocks, options, etc.), benefits, and other wages.
Additionally, the employees alleged that Uber sets initial compensation for aggrieved employees based on their past salary history. This practice disadvantages women, who are generally paid 18% less than men in the same occupation in the marketplace. It also disadvantages people of color, who are generally paid significantly less than whites in the same occupation in the marketplace.
California law prohibits an employer from paying any of its employees at wage rates less than the rates paid to employees of the opposite sex for substantially similar work, and performed under similar working conditions. “Substantially similar work” may mean the employees may have different titles or work at different sites but their work is essentially the same.
In other words, the lower paid employee does not have to prove that the higher paid employee of the opposite sex has exactly the same job as she (or he) does. If differences in wages exist, the difference must be legally justified based on one or more of the following factors:
- a) A seniority system
- b) A merit system
- c) A system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production
- d) A bona fide factor other than sex, such as education, training, or experience.
Discriminated employees will be entitled to monetary damages, including the right to recover attorneys’ fees and costs. They also may ask that the discriminatory practices are stopped.
Rather than continue with litigation, the parties agreed to settle the case, with Uber agreeing to pay $10 million to a class of 420 engineers who identified as women or people of color. As part of the settlement, Uber has agreed to improve its performance and compensation systems to prevent discrimination. It also agreed to provide a report on its efforts to promote diversity in the workplace.
The Law Offices of C. Joe Sayas, Jr. welcomes inquiries about this topic. All inquiries are confidential and at no-cost. You can contact the office at (818) 291-0088 or visit www.joesayaslaw.com or our Facebook page Joe Sayas Law. [C. Joe Sayas, Jr., Esq. is an experienced trial attorney who has successfully recovered wages and other monetary damages for thousands of employees and consumers. He was named Top Labor & Employment Attorney in California by the Daily Journal, consistently selected as Super Lawyer by the Los Angeles Magazine, and is the recipient of PABA’s Community Champion Award for 2016.]