Google pays out $118 million to female staff who earned less than their male colleagues to settle lawsuit

Search giant was accused of paying more than 15,000 female staff $17,000 a year less than their male counterparts for the same work.

Google has agreed to pay $118 million to more than 15,500 employees to settle a longstanding lawsuit over gender discrimination and equitable pay, court documents show.

The settlement covers female employees in 236 job titles in California since September 14, 2013, the plaintiffs' legal firms Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein and Altshuler Berzon said in a press release.

The employees worked across several levels and divisions, with the average compensation amounting to about $7,600.

The agreement follows a lawsuit filed in September 2017 by former employees Kelly Ellis, Holly Pease, Kelli Wisuri, and Heidi Lamar.

The initial filing said Larmer, a preschool teacher at Google's children center, was paid $18.51 an hour, while a male counterpart with fewer qualifications and less experience received $21 an hour.

Google was accused last year of paying its female employees $17,000 a year less than male staff doing the same job as part of the ongoing lawsuit. They were originally seeking $600 million in damages.

According to the filing, the settlement provides that an independent industrial organizational psychologist will analyze Google's hiring practices and pay equity.

Ellis, who was a software engineer at Google's Mountain View headquarters for about four years, said she hoped the agreement would mark a turning point in its practices.

Pease in a statement: "As a woman who's spent her entire career in the tech industry, I'm optimistic that the actions Google has agreed to take as part of this settlement will ensure more equity for women. Google, since its founding, has led the tech industry. They also have an opportunity to lead the charge to ensure inclusion and equity for women in tech."

A spokesperson for Google told Insider: "While we strongly believe in the equity of our policies and practices, after nearly five years of litigation, both sides agreed that resolution of the matter, without any admission or findings, was in the best interest of everyone, and we're very pleased to reach this agreement."

"We are absolutely committed to paying, hiring and leveling all employees fairly and equally and for the past nine years we have run a rigorous pay equity analysis to make sure salaries, bonuses and equity awards are fair."

The spokesperson added that Google made upward adjustments to for 2,352 employees last year totalling $4.4 million, and that it would continue to undertake "rigorous analysis" to ensure fairness in every role.

"We're very happy to have an advisor look at these processes and make recommendations for future improvement," they said.

A preliminary approval hearing is scheduled for June 21.