A female Google employee’s memo alleging discrimination and retaliation at the search giant is causing a big stir within the company, Motherboard reported on Monday.
The memo, in which the woman wrote that Google managers discriminated against her and a coworker because of their pregnancies and retaliated against her because she defended the coworker, has been viewed by more than 10,000 of the tech company’s employees since the employee posted it last week, according to Motherboard. It’s also inspired numerous supportive employee-created memes that have drawn thousands of likes, according to the report.
“I’m sharing this statement because I hope it informs needed change in how Google handles discrimination, harassment and retaliation,” the woman wrote in the memo, a redacted copy of which Motherboard posted on its site on Monday. “If anything similar has happened to you,” she added, “know that you’re not alone.”
In comments and memes, according to Motherboard, employees expressed their support for the woman — and dismay at the culture at Google that tolerated her alleged treatment.
“WOW. I can’t wait till absolutely nothing changes as a result,” one employee posted about the memo, according to Motherboard. “She deserves better than this continued train-wreck.”
Google’s treatment of women has been under scrutiny
In a statement to Business Insider, the Google spokesperson Jenn Kaiser said the company has a clear public policy prohibiting workplace retaliation.
“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,” Kaiser said in the statement.
The memo comes as Google has been in a recurring spotlight over its treatment of women and of employees who speak out against discrimination. In the wake of revelations that the company paid tens of millions of dollars in severance to executives and managers accused of sexual harassment, Google employees staged a walkout in fall in protest of gender discrimination. Since then, many of the organizers of the walkout have left the company, some accusing it of retaliation.
In the memo, entitled “I’m Not Returning to Google After Maternity Leave, and Here is Why: My Story of Retaliation and Discrimination at Google,” the unnamed female employee wrote that her trouble at the company started about a year and a half ago, after she was promoted to a position where she was managing five other employees.
Following the woman’s promotion, her manager began making “inappropriate comments” about one member of the woman’s team, according to the memo. The manager reportedly speculated that the team member was likely pregnant and alleged that the team member was “overly emotional and hard to work with when pregnant” and discussed with the woman the team member’s alleged pregnancy-related mental health struggles.
The woman said managers discriminated and retaliated against her
The woman reported her manager’s comments to Google’s human-relations department, but after doing so, her manager retaliated against her, she wrote in the memo obtained by Motherboard.
“Almost immediately upon my discussions with HR, my manager’s demeanor towards me changed, and drastically,” the woman said in the memo. “I endured months of angry chats and emails, vetoed projects, her ignoring me during in-person encounters, and public shaming.”
She also alleged that the manager shared “reputation-damaging remarks” with senior managers and started interviewing people to replace the woman, despite not having talked with the woman about leaving the group.
The woman eventually moved to a similar role on another team, after Google’s human resources department declined to open a formal investigation into the alleged retaliation, according to the report. But she soon saw similar discrimination, according to the memo. Her new manager reportedly openly told her she wasn’t going to have her take on managerial duties while she was pregnant, because he team might be stressed by her maternity leave. The new manager excluded her from certain communications and offsite meetings for managers, despite her new position, according to the memo.
During her pregnancy, the woman said in the memo that she developed a complication that was life threatening for her and for her fetus. As a result, she informed her team and manager that she planned to take an early maternity leave, to be on bed rest while still pregnant, and to limit her travel so she could be near the hospital that had experience with complications such as hers, according to the report. Her new manager reportedly downplayed the importance of bed rest and warned the woman that she wasn’t guaranteed to have a managerial position when she returned from her leave.
She felt unsupported and alone
After she experienced some disconcerting symptoms, she emailed her boss to let her know that likely would be starting her leave, the Google employee wrote in the memo. The manager reportedly responded with “an angry email” accusing the woman of not meeting her job expectations. The woman reported her treatment by the new manager to Google’s HR department, according to the memo.
While she wrote that the department did open an investigation this time, it reportedly told her it found no evidence of discrimination and chalked up her experience to bad communication and “administrative error.” When she asked for support from HR in changing teams again, she was directed to an internal company job board, according to the memo.
“I felt completely unsupported and gaslit,” the woman wrote. “I was alone.”
Her rating on her next job evaluation — which covered only the six weeks before she went on maternity leave — was “needs improvement,” she said. In the past, before she started complaining to Google’s HR about discrimination at the company, she had received superlative reviews, she said.
“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 said in the memo.
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