Google Employee Spills the Beans on Pregnancy Discrimination & Retaliation
Recently a female employee at the tech giant, Google, wrote a memo, titled “I’m Not Returning to Google After Maternity Leave, and Here is Why,” in which she accuses the company of discriminating and retaliating against her for being pregnant. The memo was posted by her to an internal company message board for expecting and new mothers. Her memo includes the following examples of why she believed she was the victim of pregnancy discrimination and retaliation:
- The pregnant employee’s director/manager made comments about a different female co-worker, likely being pregnant again and was overly emotional and hard to work with when pregnant;
- The manager discussed the co-worker’s likely pregnancy-related mental health struggles;
- When the pregnant employee who had heard this reached out to HR to ask for help in navigating the situation, she was told her comments might be shared directly with the boss, but not to worry because strong measures are in place to prevent retaliation.
- Almost immediately after reporting the matter to HR, the manager’s demeanor towards her drastically changed. She began enduring months of angry chats and emails, vetoed projects, she was ignored during in-person encounters, publicly shamed her, and began to actively interview candidates to replace her (they had not had any conversations about the woman leaving).
- She repeatedly reported her manager’s retaliation, and HR acknowledged they were aware of some of the activities and that such behavior was inappropriate, but stated there was no evidence of retaliation and that a formal investigation was not warranted. HR assured the employee that the manager was being coached. HR encouraged her to take medical leave because the stress of the situation resulted in her unable to sleep at night and being physically ill and she was worried about how the stress was impacting her gestating baby. She accepted a management role on another team.
- A higher-level boss begged her to stay on the team, stressing her stellar performance and that her manager would be leaving the team. Believing that she had finally been heard, she agreed to stay, but a month later, her manager was still on the team and the pregnant employee was told that her manager was not leaving the team, and she was informed that her manager reported she was not meeting expectations for her role, and was encouraged to leave the team.
- Expecting continued retaliation from her manager upon switching teams, she emailed HR asking what measures were in place to protect her, but she never received a response to the email.
- About four and a half months prior to the expected start of her maternity leave, she found another team that offered her a role of lesser responsibility.
- However, the new boss told her that she would not be allowed to have her supervisory abilities until after returning from maternity leave for fear that her maternity leave might “stress the team” and “rock the boat.” She was excluded from certain management communications.
- A few weeks after joining the new team, the pregnant employee was diagnosed with a pregnancy-related condition that was life-threatening to both her and her baby. She told her new manager that she may have to take an earlier than expected maternity leave, and bedrest. Her manager told her that she had just listened to an NPR segment that debunked the benefits of bedrest. She also shared that her doctor had ordered her to take bedrest, but that she ignored the order and worked up until the day before she delivered her son via cesarean section. Her manager then emphasized that a management role was no longer guaranteed upon her return from maternity leave, and that she supported the pregnant employee interviewing for other roles at the employer.
- The employee later advised her manager that she was experiencing pregnancy problems and would be taking the day off and likely starting her leave. A few hours later, the manager sent the pregnant employee an angry email letting her know for the first time that’s he was not meeting the expectations of someone at her level. This email showed no concern for the status of the employee’s health or pregnancy. The employee reported to HR how she was being treated and that was a victim of discrimination. HR confirmed an investigation would start. The employee was then hospitalized and gave birth.
- Four months after she reported acts of discrimination, she finally heard back from HR with results from their investigation. The employee was told that her manager did a poor job communicating the scope of her new role, but that there was no evidence of discrimination. It was additionally shared that the employee was excluded from certain management events because of an administrative error, and that her manager never meant to discourage her from taking early leave. The employee stated in her memo that she is “baffled as to how it took four months to come up with such shallow findings.”
- Additionally, the investigator emphasized that the employee should not be concerned with retaliation for sharing her concerns, but then stated she could enroll in free counseling if she needed tips on how to rebuild the relationship with her manager given the manager’s awareness of the investigation.
- While the employee was on maternity leave she received a performance review that closed while she was four months into maternity leave, which was “needs improvement.” Given the employee’s early maternity leave due to pregnancy-related health issues, attending an encouraged training and conference, and PTO taken in conjunction with Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, her performance review was based off of only about six weeks of actual work time.
The above “facts” are taken from the employee’s memo, and the employer may not agree with their accuracy. However, they are useful for Florida employers and Florida HR professionals to review because they paint a terrible picture. As an employment attorney who exclusively defends Florida employers, when I review the statements contained in this woman’s memo are very concerning. There appear to be multiple errors that have been made by the employer in handling this matter. Whether this employee sues the employer is unknown, but it would appear likely that she would be able to set forth enough allegations to force the employer to spend considerable money defending litigation, and likely paying even more money to settle the matter.
Florida employers should use the above “facts” as examples of how to not handle pregnancy-related matters. Very little of the facts show the employer doing anything correctly.
If you need any assistance in training employees or handling pregnancy issues or inappropriate comments in the workplace, or other discrimination issues concerning your Florida business or if you need guidance in any employment policies, please promptly email the Law Office of David Miklas, P.A. or call us at 1-772-465-5111.
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