Google is again under fire for discrimination and retaliation, this time against pregnant women. According to an employee memo received by Motherboard, “I’m Not Returning to Google After Maternity Leave, and Here is Why,” a Googler has accused the company of discrimination and harassment when she was pregnant. She writes, “I’m sharing this statement because I hope it informs needed change in how Google handles discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. I stood up for a mother on my team and doing so sent me down a path that destroyed my career trajectory at Google.”
The retaliation started after she brought up a manager’s derogatory comments towards a pregnant colleague to the HR. The spiral went downhill from there and she faced discrimination leading up to her own childbirth.
The employee writes that, after several years as a high performer with a strong track record within the company, she was promoted to manage a small team of her own. “At one point after my promotion, my director/manager started making inappropriate comments about a member of my team, including that the Googler was likely pregnant again and was overly emotional and hard to work with when pregnant,” she writes.
The manager later asked her to ‘manage the member of the staff’ and this prompted her to complain against her to the HR. She was told that her comments might be directly shared with her boss but that would not impact her, as strong retaliation measures were in place. What happened was the opposite. “I endured months of angry chats and emails, vetoed projects, her ignoring me during in-person encounters, and public shaming,” the employee writes. She reported the retaliation several times to HR, but nothing improved.
Being pregnant herself and worried about her gestating baby, she decided to move to another team to avoid the stressful environment. She was immediately contacted by the VP who said she wouldn’t have to leave and that her manager was transitioning off to another team. However, even after a month later the manager stayed put.
Four and a half months later, after facing continued retaliation, she thought of joining another management role of lesser responsibility but was communicated that she wouldn’t be absorbed in the new team due to the fear that her maternity leave might ‘stress the team’ and ‘rock the boat’.
She later developed a condition that put her life and her pregnancy at risk. The condition was likely to force her to start her maternity leave early. When discussing it with her manager, however, the boss dismissed her concerns, claiming that a media report “debunked the benefits of bed rest.” The boss added that she herself had ignored her own physician’s recommendations and kept working when she was pregnant. The manager “then emphasized that a management role was no longer guaranteed upon my return from maternity leave and that she supported my interviewing for other roles at Google,” she adds. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, prohibits companies to discriminate against people “on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.”
What’s NOT being said about @google’s pregnancy discrimination case is that the performance review process itself is fundamentally broken & flawed due to systemic bias AGAINST women. Retaliation doesn’t happen in a vacuum when, in fact, you’re rewarded for the outcome. #diversity
— Matthew J Yazzie (@mjyazzie) August 6, 2019
This is not the first time Google has faced scrutiny for retaliating against employees. In April, Claire Stapleton, and Meredith Whittaker, Google walkout organizers accused the company of retaliation against them over last year’s Google Walkout protest. Both their roles changed dramatically including calls to abandon one’s AI ethics work, demotion, and more. Consequently, Stapleton left the company in June, with Meredith following soon after in July after facing continuous retaliation from the management. In August, according to the Wall Street Journal, a former Google engineer claimed that he was blacklisted, bullied and ultimately fired by Google for reporting unlawful discrimination and retaliation, both internally and to government agencies. The company also sued him in arbitration, which has racked up over $100,000 in legal fees.
In response to this memo, the tech giant has been tight-lipped not accepting any responsibility; a Google spokesperson told Motherboard: “We prohibit retaliation in the workplace and publicly share our very clear policy. To make sure that no complaint raised goes unheard at Google, we give employees multiple channels to report concerns, including anonymously, and investigate all allegations of retaliation.”