News & Politics

Google Memo Claims Discrimination, Retaliation Against Pregnant Women at Tech Giant

Google logo. (Photo: Sipa France via AP Images)

On Monday, Motherboard published an internal memo circulated by a Google employee who announced she would not be returning to work after maternity leave. Facing discrimination against pregnant women and retaliation for reporting her concerns to HR, the woman decided she had had the last straw.

“I’m Not Returning to Google After Maternity Leave, and Here is Why,” the memo’s title runs. Motherboard confirmed that more than 10,000 Google employees have read it. The memo tells the story of a woman being promoted, then demoted, and her struggles with HR not taking her complaints seriously.

“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. 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,'” she writes.

She reported this to HR and was assured that her boss would not be allowed to retaliate. “I was told my comments might be shared directly with my boss, but not to worry because strong measures are in place at Google to prevent retaliation.”

Retaliation followed swiftly, however. “Almost immediately upon my discussions with HR, my manager’s demeanor towards me changed, and drastically,” she writes. “I endured months of angry chats and emails, vetoed projects, her ignoring me during in-person encounters, and public shaming. The final blow was finding out my manager was sharing reputation-damaging remarks with other more senior Googlers not on my PA, and actively interviewing candidates to replace me. We had had no conversations about my leaving the team.”

Again she reported to HR, and Google HR denied that any retaliation had taken place. She then received mixed signals: her direct manager said she wasn’t meeting expectations, but the VP above her said she had been performing admirably and announced that her direct manager would be leaving the team. The manager did not leave the team, however.

“I emailed HR asking what measures were in place to protect me. I never received a response to the email,” the anonymous employee writes.

“I found another team on a different PA that offered me a management role of lesser responsibility. I had reservations about the decreased scope of the role, but was desperate to leave my current unhealthy work environment and concerned I wouldn’t find another management role prior to or coming out of maternity leave,” she writes. Yet her new manager expressed “fear that my maternity leave might ’stress the team’ and ‘rock the boat.’”

After joining her new team, the employee was diagnosed with a life-threatening pregnancy-related condition, one that threatened both her and her daughter. Her new manager dismissed valid medical concerns.

“During one conversation with my new manager in which I reiterated an early leave and upcoming bedrest, she told me 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,” the employee writes. “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.”

When her condition worsened and she needed bed rest until delivery, she emailed her manager. “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 employee wrote.

After a cursory investigation, Google HR concluded once again that no discrimination or retaliation had taken place.

In a statement to Motherboard, Google once again declared its official policy against retaliation.

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.

Whatever Google’s policies, this woman’s story is chilling. Women have long experienced tense relationships with employers during and after pregnancy, but retaliation and discrimination are rightly illegal. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) should look into this complaint.

Yet this situation raises even bigger social questions. Why did this happen at Google, a far-left company that champions diversity and women’s rights? Wouldn’t a liberal company honor women?

According to the lawsuit former Google senior software engineer James Damore filed against the company, “Google furnishes a large number of internal mailing lists catering to employees with alternative lifestyles, including furries, polygamy, transgenderism, and plurality, for the purpose of discussing sexual topics. The only lifestyle that seems to not be openly discussed on Google’s internal forums is traditional heterosexual monogamy.”

In March of 2017, Google HR upbraided an employee for conservative and traditional parenting techniques, Damore reported. The department complained about this post: “If I had a child, I would teach him/her traditional gender roles and patriarchy from a very young age. That’s the hardest thing to fix later, and our degenerate society constantly pushes the wrong message.”

If Google HR is biased against traditional gender roles, it stands to reason that they might view pregnancy with suspicion. Some hard-nosed traditionalists may look down on women, but it seems the new LGBT activists look down on the traditional family structure, and that often involves looking down on mothers.

Pregnancy is a natural and healthy condition, and no woman should be discriminated against because she is a mother. Google needs to get its house in order.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.