Oracle Women Stumble in Pay Bias Suit While Google Cuts a Deal

(Bloomberg) — Oracle Corp. female employees who won a ground-breaking ruling allowing them to pursue gender-bias claims against the company as a large group are now poised to lose their class-action status.

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A California state judge tentatively ruled on Friday that it would be unmanageable to proceed to trial with a class of more than 3,000 employees in 125 different job classifications suing over alleged pay disparities.

If the ruling stands, it would take away critical leverage the women previously won after they were granted class-status in 2020 in their case filed under the state’s Equal Pay Act. The suit was filed in 2017 by a former company engineer and two other women, all of whom worked at PeopleSoft Corp. before it was acquired by Oracle in 2005.

Women across industries from technology to retail have faced an uphill climb in trying to gain traction in suits over gender and pay disparity. Female engineers at both Twitter Inc. and Microsoft Corp. failed to persuade judges to let their gender-bias cases proceed as class actions and those rulings were upheld on appeal.

However, female employees pursuing a class-action suit against Alphabet Inc.’s Google over gender-pay disparity on behalf of almost 11,000 women while seeking more than $600 million won class status in 2021.

San Mateo County Superior Court Judge V. Raymond Swope, who tentatively granted Oracle’s request to decertify the class, set a hearing on the matter for June 13 in Redwood City.

Before the 2020 ruling, Oracle argued that the lawsuit wrongly compares women and men tagged with the same job codes even though such coding doesn’t mean the work requires similar skills, effort or responsibility, because Oracle’s products and services vary so widely.

Oracle Women Score Major Win in Court Battle Over Equal Pay

Jim Finberg, an attorney representing the women, said he plans to persuade the judge to change his tentative ruling. If that doesn’t work, “it is fair to say that, at some point, we will appeal the decision,” he said.

An Oracle spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is Jewett v. Oracle America Inc., 17-CIV-02669, California Superior Court, County of San Mateo (Redwood City).

(Adds details from ruling, background)

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