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Oracle’s $401 Million Underpayment To Women and Minorities? Or DoL’s Weird Definition Of Discrimination?

That there are different definitions on gender and race discrimination out there is obvious enough but the Department of Labor has given us an interesting insight into their thinking with this claim against Oracle of $401 million dollars in wage underpayments. The point being that they seem to have leapt over being reasonable and into a highly political and also untrue definition of what is discrimination. Discrimination in the sense that ought to be illegal that is.

For example, preferentially hiring people who are not US citizens is most certainly discrimination. But it’s not racial discrimination, which is what the claim is here. It is, instead and in both senses, legal discrimination.

On the other hand we can ask an entirely different question. If this is what a Republic DoL is like then what’s the point of even having Republicans?

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Department of Labor accuses Oracle of discrimination that cost women and people of color $400 million[/perfectpullquote]

That is the accusation, this is yet another filing in the ongoing suit against Oracle.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The enterprise software company intentionally shows “extreme preference” for hiring Asians workers with visas, because doing so also allows it to underpay them, the Labor Department charged in a new filing in its ongoing lawsuit against Oracle.[/perfectpullquote]

Umm, OK.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]During the four-year period it studied, the Labor Department found that 90% of the 500 recent college graduates Oracle hired to work in technical positions at its Redwood City headquarters were Asian. Just six of the graduates were black and only five were Hispanic.[/perfectpullquote]

Note what that claim is. It isn’t that the hiring was itself prejudiced racially. Rather, that they deliberately hired people reliant upon a visa to work in the US. Thus they’re – at least a little bit – captured by Oracle as they need to keep the job to keep the visa to stay in the US.

We can call that many things but it’s not illegal hiring based upon racial discrimination. Even though that’s what DoL is claiming, it still isn’t.

Then there’s this:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The filing cites evidence that Oracle underpaid women and ethnic minorities for similar work done by white men by as much 25%.[/perfectpullquote]

Why? Because of their sex, gender or race? Well, no.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The company regularly based pay for women and minority workers on their prior salaries, the Labor Department charged, a move that frequently serves to continue disparate wages…[/perfectpullquote]

That’s been a fast move, hasn’t it? It’s only recently that some academics started to muse that possibly this could be true. That if women – say – move in from some other company then the expectations of both the women and the new employer will be set by their past wages. DoL is already saying this is illegal?

And yet think it through the other way around for a moment. The employer doesn’t know what the potential employee will be willing to work for. So, ask them and find out. Seems simple enough really. But the claim is now this is illegal?

It is of course possible that all of this is evidence of illegal underpayment of those minorities and women. Our own opinion around here is that it’s more to do with the absurd definitions of discrimination the Department of Labor is using. Playing that labour indentured by visa requirements is not racial discrimination. Basing pay on what people are willing to work for is not gender discrimination either. Both might indeed lead to unequal outcomes but then that’s not illegal discrimination either – it’s just an unequal outcome.

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5 years ago

The state maintains a pretty detailed database of different jobs categories and what they consider to be the going wage for that occupation. If you hire someone on an H1b visa they must be paid at least that rate for that job category. So, theoretically non-US citizens on H1b visas should not be paid less than they would pay an American citizen or resident because they may not be paid less than an approved wage. Of course, if they are being paid less it implies that the state’s wage data is incorrect. That, of course, is entirely possible, but the… Read more »

Jonathan Harston
Jonathan Harston
5 years ago

“The employer doesn’t know what the potential employee will be willing to work for”

How do they not know? The applicant has applied for the advertised job, so by that very fact they are demonstrating that they will work for the pay advertised for that job. If they weren’t prepared to work for the advertised pay for the job, what the hell are they doing wasting the employer’s time by applying for the advertised job?

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