A former manager at Google has had a parting memo go viral, after alleging discrimination and retaliation against pregnant employees.
The memo titled “I’m Not Returning to Google After Maternity Leave, and Here is Why” has reportedly been read by more than 10,000 Google employees.
In the letter first obtained by Vice, the senior employee claimed attempts to stand up for a pregnant worker on her team, and her own eventual pregnancy led her to be discriminated and retaliated against.
“I’m sharing this statement because I hope it informs needed change in how Google handles discrimination, harassment and retaliation,” the woman wrote.
“This is a long read, but the details are important in understanding the often drawn-out, isolating and painful experience of victims of discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Also, if anything similar has happened to you, know that you’re not alone.”
The memo tracks the worker’s experience over several months at Google following “four years of strong performance” and associated strong performance reviews.
The writer had been promoted into a position where she managed five workers and reported directly to her director. However, her director began making “inappropriate comments” about one of the women she was managing, by suggesting that the woman would become pregnant again.
“My manager also discussed this person’s likely pregnancy-related mental health struggles and how it’s difficult because you can’t touch employees after they disclose such things,” the manager said.
According to the memo, attempts to escalate the issue to HR backfired, with her manager’s behaviour changing “drastically”.
“I endured, months of angry chats and emails, vetoed projects, her ignoring me during in-person encounters and public shaming,” she said.
She went on to change teams and later become pregnant.
Upon being diagnosed with a life-threatening pregnancy-related sickness, the worker claims her new manager told her that she had listened to a radio segment which “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,” the memo continued.
“My manager then emphasized in this same meeting 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.”
Later, the worker needed to take sick leave due to “concerning symptoms”, with the sick leave likely to transition into the beginning of her maternity leave.
“A few hours later, she sent me an angry email letting me know I wasn’t meeting the expectations of someone at my level, nor meeting the expectations of a manager. This was the first time any such feedback had been shared, and no concern was stated for the status of my health and pregnancy.”
The letter concluded with the worker noting that HR did not find evidence of discrimination, but that her manager had not communicated the scope of her new role well.
However, the worker rejected the “shallow” findings.
“I stood up for a mother on my team and doing so sent me down a path that destroyed my career trajectory at Google,” she concluded.
In a statement, Google said: “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.”
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