Plaintiffs Overcome Summary Judgment Bid by Oracle in Gender-Based Wage Discrimination Suit

Monday’s decision handed victory to the three named plaintiffs in a wage discrimination suit, women who were employed in Oracle’s product development, support, and information technology departments in California, and the class they represent. The women filed suit against Oracle America Inc. in 2017, alleging that the company paid them thousands of dollars less per year than it paid men in the same roles. The California state court overseeing the employment class action denied Oracle’s motions in light of numerous issues of triable fact.

The suit claimed that the multinational computer technology company violated California’s Equal Pay Act (EPA) and unfair business practice laws for the unjustifiable pay discrepancy. In this week’s opinion, Judge V. Raymond Swope of the San Mateo Superior Court considered Oracle’s “early” motions for summary adjudication.

The defendant reportedly filed its motions, one against each plaintiff, the same day that the plaintiffs moved for class certification, which they obtained. According to the order, the class contains more than 3,000 women.

According to the opinion, Oracle’s requested summary judgment on the bases that the plaintiffs “cannot prove that their male comparators were paid more for substantially similar work, and, alternatively, that bona fide factors justify any pay differentials.” The plaintiffs rebutted these claims with “substantial evidence,” including Oracle’s own documents, testimony from persons designated by Oracle as “Persons Most Qualified,” and expert testimony.

Regarding their EPA claim, the plaintiffs submitted evidence concerning the “centralized and systematized manner in which Oracle classes employees and determines employee pay.” Too, they presented evidence from one of their experts, a labor economist, who found disparities in pay and bonuses between men and women within the same job code, including the three named plaintiffs.

The court’s analysis primarily focused on whether the plaintiffs established a prima facie case under the EPA and whether “the undisputed evidence establishe(d) Oracle’s affirmative defense that bona de factors other than sex explain the entire wage gap between Plaintiffs and their male comparators.”

Judge Swope ruled that, based on the allegations in their fourth amended complaint and supporting evidence, the plaintiffs met their initial burden under the EPA. Further, the court disagreed with Oracle that factors other than gender explain the pay disparity. The court pointed to the defendant’s own admission that it did not offer any evidence addressing the plaintiffs’ theory that women who shared a job title or job code and performed the same work as men were paid less than them without lawful justification.

Though the court ruled that this alone was sufficient to deny Oracle’s motions, it held that there were independent reasons for doing so. The opinion acknowledged numerous issues of triable fact, like the validity of Oracle’s affirmative defense.

A case management and trial setting conference is scheduled for Friday.

The plaintiffs are represented by Altshuler Berzon LLP and Rudy, Exelrod, Zieff & Lowe LLP, and Oracle by Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.