Google denies ‘peer bonus’ to employee for exposing salary inequality

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Out of boredom, ex-Google engineer Erica Baker and some other coworkers have made a spreadsheet listing everybody’s salaries, as an experiment in radical transparency and shared it on Google’s internal social network.

The idea immediately caught fire and soon more Googlers started adding their salary data. When she tried to expose the pay inequalities, she ended in trouble with the management in a series of Twitter posts.

That data showed there were some “not so great” trends—implied by Baker, but not stated, to be correlated to gender and ethnicity. Several Googlers used the data to ask for, and receive, higher pay, Baker says.

Meanwhile, Baker got called in to get reprimanded by her manager. And while that manager couldn’t do anything to Baker directly, she still has had her revenge. Google has a system of “peer bonuses,” where anyone can give anyone else a $150 bonus just for doing good work.

Baker’s co-workers were sending her that bonus in gratitude for her work on the salary spreadsheet. But she never got any of that cash. The peer bonus, it turned out, have to be signed by a manager. And Baker says, her manager didn’t sign on a single one, even as her co-workers still received theirs. It was a small, but significant, form of retaliation, Baker says. Meanwhile, the spreadsheet continued to grow.

At present, Baker, who works at a chat messaging app Slack, tweeted she was moved to share this story now due to this week’s Google Doodle celebrating African-American suffragist Ida B Wells.

Google, however, did not reply to any queries.

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