DOL Judge Rules No Systemic Bias at Federal Contractor

September 25, 2020

A DOL Administrative Law Judge ordered the U.S. Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) to dismiss its systemic pay discrimination claims against a large tech company in a decision that could have far reaching implications for future cases.

OFCCP claimed an analysis of Oracle pay data indicated thousands of female Black and Asian employees at its California headquarters were discriminated against relative to their white and male colleagues.  OFCCP also alleged the company unfairly passed over non-Asian job applicants, particularly Hispanic and Black applicants.

Judge Richard M. Clark ruled “this is a case about discrimination, not simply a disparity.  OFCCP alleges that the disparities are due to discriminatory acts of Oracle, and acts of its top executives and HR personnel on a systemic basis...Most importantly, the statistical evidence offered does not support an inference that Oracle is discriminating, or that there are disparities to be explained by either a pattern or practice of discrimination or a policy or practice of relying on prior pay.”

OFCCP's analysis of the company's pay data didn't sufficiently account for “major nondiscriminatory factors” that could have played a role in any pay disparities.

“No good evidence [exists] for OFCCP's allegation that Oracle's executives knew about, hid, and ignored widespread disparities,” Judge Clark ruled and while numerous Oracle workers offered “anecdotal” accounts of their negative or perceived unfair experiences, “in this case, the anecdotal evidence did not bring the statistics to life and was not suggestive of widespread discrimination.”

Impact on other cases:  The sweeping decision provides other companies who are being audited by OFCCP a solid set of arguments to challenge allegations the agency may make of pay discrimination.  OFCCP may have to rethink its approach to evaluating compensation.  OFCCP has a right to appeal the ruling to the DOL's Administrative Review Board within 14 days.