Mom’s ‘I’m Not Returning to Google After Maternity Leave’ Memo Should Change Corporate Policy

A Google employee’s memo alleging the company discriminated and retaliated against her for being pregnant has been seen by more than 10,000 employees at the Silicon Valley tech company.

The memo, titled “I’m Not Returning to Google After Maternity Leave, and Here is Why,” was posted to an internal message board for new and expecting mothers in late July, Vice’s Motherboard reports. The memo was then posted to other internal message boards at the company, after which it went viral. Many employees are in support of the woman author who works in the Seattle/Kirkland branch of the company.

In the 2,300-plus-word memo, the woman wrote that her manager made derogatory remarks about a different woman, claiming she was “overly emotional and difficult to work with when pregnant.” Once the author reported her manager to HR, the retaliation began “almost immediately.”

Vice posted the six-page document, with names and other identifying information redacted. None of the claims have been verified, and the author declined to comment.

“I’m sharing this statement because I hope it informs needed change in how Google handles discrimination, harassment and retaliation,” the woman began the memo. “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 author wrote that she repeatedly received excellent performance reviews—including from her current manager. But once she reported her manager for the discriminatory behavior, she received “months of angry chats and emails, vetoed projects, her ignoring me during in-person encounters, and public shaming.”

After a few months and numerous reports of retaliation to HR, the then-pregnant author wrote that the toxic environment had severely affected her mental and physical health and wellbeing, and she was worried about her baby. Eventually, she was able to move to a managing position on another team within the company.

Though her new boss introduced her to her team as a manager via email, the author said that she was told she wouldn’t be able to absorb the team until after returning from maternity leave, due to concerns that her leave would “stress the team” and “rock the boat,” despite there being more than four months before her expected departure. She alleged she was then excluded from certain management communications and offsites.

Just a few weeks after joining the new team, the mom-to-be was diagnosed with a life-threatening pregnancy-related condition. She expressed to her team and to her superiors that she might have to start her leave early, and that she couldn’t travel because she needed to be close to a specific local hospital.

The woman wrote that she learned her new manager was close with her former manager. In a conversation with her new manager about the sooner-than-planned leave and upcoming bedrest, her boss said an NPR segment debunked the benefits of bedrest and that she worked up until the day she gave birth. She then reportedly told the author that she would not be guaranteed a management role after returning from leave, and that she would support her in interviewing for other roles at the company.

When the author was experiencing concerning symptoms, she let her manager know she would likely be going on leave that day. Her boss responded with an angry email stating that she wasn’t meeting the expectations of someone at a managerial level. The author soon filed a discrimination complaint with HR, which they said would start an investigation.

Four months later, after a rocky birth and three weeks of hospitalization for the new mom, HR notified her that the investigation was complete, and that they found no signs of discrimination, just that her manager had done a poor job of communicating job expectations.

“Can you guess what my calibration score was in the next perf cycle that closed while I was four months into maternity leave? Needs Improvement. Given my 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, my new team based this off of about six weeks of actual work time,” the author wrote. “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 memo concluded with glowing quotes that her direct reports wrote about her. Find the memo here.

A Google spokesperson responded to the allegations in a statement to Vice.

“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,” the tech giant’s spokesperson wrote.

This isn’t the first time Google has garnered headlines for discrimination against women or minorities, either. This time, let’s hope real change is made.