A dispute between the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and Google is an example of the demand for increase data that companies can expect to see from the government as technology continues to evolve.

The DOL’s Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs (OFCCP) in 2015 conducted a random compliance evaluation of Google’s diversity practices to determine whether it was complying with applicable government regulations as a federal contractor, such as not discriminating against individuals because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran. Federal contractors and subcontractors also are prohibited from discriminating against applicants or employees because they have inquired about, discussed or disclosed their compensation.

As part of this process, OFCCP requested, and Google provided, an employment data “snapshot” from 2015 for 21,000 workers located at Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA. According to Google, the company provided more than 329,000 documents and more than 1.7 million data points, including detailed compensation information.

In reviewing the data, OFCCP determined that Google may be paying women less than men for similar job positions. It requested another employment data snapshot from 2014 for another 25,000 employees to determine if this pay disparity was systematic and unlawful. The data request sought salary and job histories dating back almost 20 years, including starting salaries and job levels, as well as subsequent employment changes. Google disputed the OFCCP’s assertion that it may have a systematic pay equity gender gap, but refused to provide the data. OFCCP sued, bringing the process before an administrative law judge.

In July, the administrative law judge ruled that Google did not have to comply with the full scope of all of the additional data requests. The judge noted that the demand for the additional data was “over-broad, intrusive on employee privacy, unduly burdensome, and insufficiently focused on obtaining the relevant information.” However, the judge still allowed OFCCP the ability to “only” select 8,000 workers whose names, addresses, personal phone numbers and email addresses would be provided by Google. The department would also receive names for a total of 25,000 workers, which the judge noted could be used by Labor Department investigators to track the employees down.

The larger interpretation of this situation is that as technology evolves with its ever-increasing data output, businesses can expect that government agencies will become more assertive in requesting data to determine whether businesses are complying with government regulations, and to assess the effectiveness with those regulations. An example is the recent decision by the EEOC to add payroll data requirements to the EEO-1 reporting. The data-driven trend creates an opportunity for businesses to learn how to harness their data collection to not only comply with regulations but to provide meaningful insights to improve business performance.

Most companies don’t have the expansive employment data that Google has, but they still need to start preparing for an increase in employee data needs for compliance purposes. Some questions to ask:

Do you have the data management infrastructure in place to easily handle government data requests?

Do you have the capability to seamlessly gather and consolidate employee data from an array of disjointed databases for payroll, benefits administration, time and attendance, and other employment data?

As an organization, are you taking advantage of your HR data to mine it effectively for insights to improve your business operations and financial performance?

Would your business benefit from working with a vendor that has expertise in data management and consolidation?

Now’s the time to start preparing a system that makes it easy to both collect employment data and use it effectively to power your business to greater success.

To learn more about achieving pay equity, click here.