Rowe v. Google LLC

STATUS: Resolved


Ulku Rowe alleged that Google hired five male colleagues at a higher salary level than her for the same job, and retaliated against her after she raised complaints

Rowe’s case was the first gender discrimination case filed against Google after the 2018 mass walkouts and was the first in the company’s history to go to trial

A federal jury has awarded a $1.15 million verdict to Ulku Rowe, a female Google Cloud executive who alleged that the technology company violated the New York City Human Rights Law when it hired her at a lower salary level than similarly situated male peers, overlooked her for a promotion, and retaliated against her for raising complaints and filing a discrimination lawsuit. The award includes $1 million in punitive damages, as well as $150,000 to Ms. Rowe as compensatory damages.

Ms. Rowe has worked for Google as a Technical Director in the office of the CTO since 2017. Prior to that time, Ms. Rowe, who was a Fulbright Scholar in Computer Science/Engineering, was a Managing Director and the CTO for Global Credit Risk at JPMorgan Chase. When Ms. Rowe joined Google, she was allegedly told that it was hiring all Technical Directors as a Level 8, but Ms. Rowe later learned that Google had hired five men at Level 9. 

“While nothing can undo the pain and frustration of being denied opportunities and facing retaliation simply because of my gender, this verdict is a step forward in the fight for equal treatment in this industry to which I have dedicated my career,” said Ulku Rowe.

Evidence introduced at trial, including the testimony of three of her male colleagues, showed that there were no meaningful distinctions between the Technical Director role at Levels 8 and 9, but Level 9 Technical Directors had higher earning potential and greater advancement opportunities than those at Level 8. 

“This unanimous verdict not only validates Ms. Rowe’s allegations of mistreatment by Google, but it also sends a resounding message that discrimination and retaliation will not be tolerated in the workplace. Today’s victory is historic and was made possible thanks to the efforts of thousands of Googlers who walked out in 2018 and demanded reforms,” said Cara Greene, partner at Outten & Golden and attorney for Ms. Rowe. “Hopefully, this empowers more women across technology and finance to seek justice and motivates companies to change their practices.”

Ms. Rowe repeatedly raised concerns internally about her under-leveling as compared to her male peers and the way it was impacting her career advancement, but Google did not adjust her level. In late 2018, Ms. Rowe applied to be head of the Google Cloud’s Financial Services vertical, a role for which she was uniquely qualified, but evidence at trial suggested the Company passed her over in favor of a less qualified man who had not interviewed for the position. Ms. Rowe filed this lawsuit in October 2019, and the evidence at trial suggested Google further retaliated against her by denying her another Vice President position for which she was qualified. 

“No one should be treated differently or denied an opportunity because they spoke up about wrongdoing in the workplace,” said Gregory Chiarello, partner at Outten & Golden and another of Ms. Rowe’s attorneys. “Today helps right that wrong.”

The lawsuit was filed less than one year after 20,000-employees walked out of Google offices demanding, among other things, a commitment by Google to end pay and opportunity inequity for women and staff of color, and the practice of forced arbitration at the company. 

Ms. Rowe is represented by Cara E. Greene, Gregory Chiarello, and Shira Gelfand of Outten & Golden LLP. The case was filed in the Southern District of New York. 

(*Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.)



WIRED: This Woman Exec Beat Google in Court – and Hopes Others Follow

WIRED: This Exec Is Forcing Google Into Its First Trial Over Sexist Pay Discrimination 

Law360: Google Hit With $1.2M Gender Discrimination Verdict

Engadget: Google ordered to pay $1 million to female exec who sued over gender discrimination

The Verge: Google owes executive $1 million after losing gender bias lawsuit

Bloomberg Law: Google Must Pay Female Executive $1 Million for Gender Bias

Insider: Google must pay female cloud exec $1.15 million in gender discrimination suit, jury says

Forbes: Google Is Going To Court For The First Time Over Alleged Pay Discrimination


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