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Five Silicon Valley Companies Fought Release Of Employment Data, And Won

Publication Date: 
February 14, 2010
San Jose Mercury News
Mike Swift

Professor Richard Thomas Ford, an expert on anti-discrimination law, is quoted in the San Jose Mercury on Silicon Valley tech companies withholding race and gender data on their employees. Mike Swift reports:

Google, the company that wants to make the world's information accessible, says the race and gender of its work force is a trade secret that cannot be released.

So do Apple, Yahoo, Oracle and Applied Materials. These five companies waged an 18-month Freedom of Information battle with the Mercury News, convincing federal regulators who collect the data that its release would cause "commercial harm" by potentially revealing the companies' business strategy to competitors. A sixth company, Hewlett-Packard, fought the release and lost.


"One of the main ways that we track how society is doing in terms of race relations, in terms of eliminating discrimination, in terms of promoting diversity, is by looking at statistics," said Richard Ford, a Stanford University law professor who is an expert in civil rights and anti-discrimination law. "But if we can't get the data, we can't know if it's a problem or not."


Companies such as Google and Apple are particularly crucial to study, Ford said, because many of the nation's civil rights laws were written in the 1960s for a different workplace than the information-driven jobs of today.