Google has come under increasing scrutiny this week after two reports revealed alleged abuses and mistreatment of the tech giant’s massive contractor workforce, which now outnumbers its full-time employees.
These workers, hired through outside agencies, have inferior or no benefits and less legal recourse than Google’s full-time employees. Also at the heart of their complaints is that they report being overworked and underpaid.
Recode reviewed data on Glassdoor, a site where employees can anonymously share their salaries and review their workplaces, and found a significant gap between median self-reported wages from Google contractors and full-time Google workers. In the US, the median pay for Google’s full-time workers across departments is estimated to be $128,000 on Glassdoor. That’s 42 percent more than the median pay Glassdoor estimates for Google’s US-based contract workers: $90,000. Unsurprisingly, Google contractors also rated the company lower than full-time employees did.
It’s important to note that Glassdoor’s figures are self-reported by employees who choose to share this information, and therefore they are not a definitive dataset of salaries at the company. But these estimates do offer a valuable glimpse into the difference in pay and work satisfaction between contractors and full-time employees.
Google lists its median global salary as $246,804, according to its 2018 Securities and Exchange Commission filings, or nearly twice as much as the data on Glassdoor shows. Google’s number also does not include contractors. It also includes stock options and other bonuses offered to Google employees, which can be substantial. Finally, it’s possible that the site’s salary listings skew more toward rank and file employees than executives, who are less likely to post their higher salaries, according to Glassdoor.
Google declined to comment on Glassdoor’s data or to share its internal compensation numbers. As for contractors, a company spokesperson emphasized that temporary staff and vendors are not employed by Google but rather by third-party agencies. The company also said these jobs are never meant as trial runs for employment at Google, and that if projects become long-term, contractors must apply to positions through the same hiring process as outside candidates. Contractors have alleged in a number of interviews that their Google managers have implied their positions could become full time, and a number of contractor reviews of the company on Glassdoor also make the same claim.
Tension over contractor pay and benefits has led both full-time and contract Google employees to protest repeatedly. In response, Google recently announced it will require its contract agencies to improve benefits and increase wages for Google’s US-based contract workers to at least $15 an hour by 2020. That still would only be about $30,000 a year working full time; Glassdoor’s $90,000 figure speaks to the wide variety of contractors that Google employs. Contract jobs at Google include everything from linguists to Google Maps drivers to caterers to cleaners.
On Glassdoor, full-time Google employees were much more likely than contractors to rate their experience at the company as positive, according to an overall Glassdoor rating that includes workers’ feelings about the company’s culture, management, and compensation, among other criteria. Google employees in the US gave the company a 4.3 (out of 5) average rating while contractors gave it a 3.6.
Many contractors cited complaints about the company that mirror recent reporting in which Google contractors complained of being treated like second-class citizens compared to full-time employees:
Current program manager
Pros: If you like eating bad and unhealthy food and sitting on a shuttle for two hours then I guess this is a “pro.”
Cons: They are not telling anyone the truth. I worked in hardware marketing for over a year. After being an important part of a global team, slaving for 10-14 hours a day, working nights and weekend with the promise of being converted and the “if I only took one more project that would look good on your Google resume.” After three successful NPI releases, my boss quit, and with one reorg, we were all set to pasture.
Advice to management: none because they don’t care.
Current technical sourcer
Pros: Great culture, perks, and the ability to work on some really unique projects.
Cons: Can feel like a cog in the machine at points, but there is opportunity to switch teams and move to different projects as you prove yourself.
Current recruiting coordinator
Pros: Culture, perks and benefits. Very healthy and happy environment to be apart of.
Cons: Discrimination toward contractors as they are not allowed to many events or take some classes. Insurance for contractors [is] bad.
Still, the average company rating across all companies on Glassdoor is 3.4, suggesting that even among contractors, Google is considered a relatively good place to work. Indeed, it has ranked among the top 10 best places to work in the US every year since 2012, based on Glassdoor reviews from both contractors and regular employees.
But Google, as one of the biggest tech companies in the world, has increasingly come under public scrutiny, becoming a key target for 2020 presidential candidates hoping to break up or more heavily regulate major tech companies. For both Google’s workforce and politicians, it seems that Google’s don’t be evil ethos isn’t good enough anymore.
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