California Judge Allows Sex Discrimination Lawsuit Against Oracle to Proceed as Class Action

A judge in the Superior Court of San Mateo County has allowed a class action lawsuit by female Oracle employees to move forward. Over 4,000 women in the product development, technological support, and customer support divisions of Oracle have joined the lawsuit, which was initially filed in 2017. The lawsuit claims that Oracle paid these women $13,000 less per year than male employees with similar job duties. The discrepancy allegedly resulted from Oracle’s practice of basing salaries on what employees were paid in their previous jobs. This practice is illegal in California, and it also may violate the Equal Pay Act, a federal law. The plaintiffs allege that Lisa Gordon, the director of compensation at Oracle when they worked there, said that the tech company aimed “to match what they made at the previous company.”

Oracle argued that the case should not proceed as a class action, due to variations among the job duties and skill sets of the female employees. It also denied the underlying allegations. The tech company took the position that the women held different roles than the men to whom they compared their salaries. Judge V. Raymond Swope was not convinced, allowing the case to proceed on behalf of female employees who held similar jobs to the plaintiffs since June 2013. Swope noted that an equal pay violation does not require men and women to have identical job duties. If the positions are substantially similar, a jury should be allowed to decide whether the evidence supports a discrimination claim. Each side has gathered evidence from experts to support its position on whether the jobs are substantially similar.

While this ruling was a victory for the plaintiffs, it resolved only a procedural issue in the case. The question of whether discrimination occurred has not been decided. Oracle still can mount a substantive defense to the claims.

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