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Google forgoes compensating the remaining maternity and medical leave to laid-off employees

March 17, 2023
minute read

Google is letting former employees know that they won't be paid for all of their remaining vacation time if they were laid off while on maternity or medical leave, according to former employees and written correspondence shared with Trade Algo.

A group called "Laid off on Leave" made up of more than 100 former employees is requesting compensation from executives for the weeks and months they were permitted to take off work before the job cuts were made public in January. Those who spoke with Trade Algo claimed they were informed they would only get paid until the agreed-upon end date and would also get a typical severance package.

Three times, most recently on March 9, the group of former employees wrote a letter to officials, including CEO Sundar Pichai and Chief People Officer Fiona Cicconi. The group consists of those who have been given permission to take or are already taking maternity leave, baby bonding leave, caregiver's leave, medical leave, or personal leave.

Google stated at the beginning of last year that it would extend the parental leave for full-time employees to 24 weeks for birth parents and 18 weeks for all parents. At the time, Cicconi stated that the business wished to provide "exceptional perks" to enable workers to "spend more time with their new baby, take care of a sick loved one, or take care of their own wellbeing."

Alphabet, the company that owns Google, has now begun the harshest period of cost-cutting in its nearly two decades of public trading. The business said in January that it was laying off 12,000 employees, or approximately 6% of its total workforce, in order to deal with sluggish sales growth after a protracted period of expansion in the computer industry.

Pichai announced that U.S.-based employees would receive 16 weeks of severance compensation in addition to two weeks for each additional year of employment. The company also stated that paid time off will be included in the severance.

Due to a deadline: official severance terms are anticipated to arrive as soon as March 31, those who were fired while on medical leave are pleading with Pichai and other officials to provide urgent clarification on the situation.

The Laid Off on Leave group revealed concrete instances of Google employees affected by the layoffs while on their previously authorized leave in its first email to executives in January.

One woman claimed that a week after her maternity leave was authorized, she was fired. Another claimed to have received notification a week prior to her due date while on maternity leave.

Some had open discussions about the subject.

The Google program manager stated on LinkedIn, "Just a week after receiving the text and sharing the wonderful news that my maternity leave was authorized, I got the already widely discussed email letting me know that I was among the 12k terminated. Easy target? Maybe.”

Kate Howells, a longtime worker, noted on her post that she had recently given birth before getting the call.

Howells stated, "On 1/20/23 at 7:05 am sitting in the hospital bed cradling my hours-old infant I discovered that I was part of the #thegolden12K of Googlers who had been laid off. I worked for Google for 9.5 years.

An email from a Google representative to Trade Algo stated that departing workers are entitled to stock and income for their "60+ day notice period" and reaffirmed Pichai's letter about 16 weeks of pay and an additional two weeks for each year of service.

In addition to the severance payment, the company did not specify whether it would also pay for full medical leave.

“The care we're offering compares favorably with that of other organizations, including for Googlers on leave, we benchmarked this package, as we communicated with the affected employees,” the representative added.

‘Good faith effort’

On the day of the layoff announcement, several workers whose jobs were terminated told Trade Algo, Google's on-site One Medical facility also shut off their access to doctors and specialists. They claimed the disruption of treatment at the time. A senior software engineer who had been laid off claimed he had lost face-to-face contact with his three-year primary care physician.

Ex-employees claimed they had the choice of keeping their doctors on the phone but were otherwise told to find replacements.

The group of laid-off employees emphasized how ironic it is that this is happening during women's history month.

The group wrote in an email to Google executives, "Google is presently exhibiting its workplace commitments and its participation in Women's History Month through numerous goods and services promotions. We concur with you that it's critical to acknowledge the challenges that women continue to face disproportionately in the workplace."

They said that the company still has time to address the issue.

"We humbly request that all leaves that were authorized as of January 20, 2023, adhere to the conditions of our original parental and/or disability leave arrangements," the group wrote.

More than 50 laid-off employees gathered at a casual gathering hosted by the Google alumni club Xoogler in January for support and to look for solutions. A lady who came up at the event to explain she "was laid off while trying to care for a three-month-old, and it was pretty terrible to hear," according to Kushagra Shrivastava, one of the organizers.

Not only recent mothers and those who may soon become parents struggle with this. In addition, the email to management discusses the difficulties faced by expectant women who had not yet formally requested a leave of absence and who, as a result, "will have an even longer path to obtaining new employment given the points they're at in their pregnancies."

The Family and Medical Leave Act benefits for these women would not begin for a year at a new employer, "rendering it impossible for expectant and new moms to leverage the FMLA they paid for to the harm of their health and their baby's wellness," according to the group. "The ability of laid-off Google employees to find new employment right away is severely hampered by parental and medical leaves."

The company mentioned in the group's letter, Amazon, has stated that it will pay out severance payments and the remaining leave time.

Employees who attempted to contact Google about the issue claimed they were unable to access the internal system and could only complete a form on a different temporary gateway. Several claimed to have heard back a week after reaching out, and each claimed to have received what seemed to be an automated message that reiterated their employment termination date or instructed them to apply again for a different position.

The group of laid-off employees claimed in an email to Trade Algo that Pichai was more concerned with the business's drive to be competitive in the race for artificial intelligence dominance than it was with providing support for seasoned employees who needed it.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, addressed the company's dedication to AI three times when he announced layoffs, but never once when he discussed Google's commitment to accessibility, the organization claimed. "This is significant because the company's true objective includes a commitment to accessibility. This blatantly necessitates resetting our priorities. It's hardly unexpected that Google demonstrated through a botched demo just days after firing us that they are not in fact at the forefront of AI. The good news is that there is still a tremendous opportunity to lead the way in accessibility for the treatment of laid-off workers.

Quality time with baby

Also, the organization reminded Google leadership of the value of parental benefits and its goals when it amended its plan. It specifically said that parents should spend quality time with their infants without the pressure of having to rush back to work or worry about work-related issues.

According to an email sent to executives, "Google structured its parental benefits with this in mind, emphasizing the necessity for parents to have time off to recover and bond with their new infants."

Because the company guaranteed them a specific amount of fully compensated time off, some people expressed their optimism that this problem is merely an oversight and that leadership will take appropriate action.

The letter stated that "granting a payout of entire remaining leave days for booked and forthcoming leaves would be noticeably in line with Google's present policy of reimbursement for accumulated employee vacation time (PTO) in this round of layoffs."

The group cited Google's initial core value, "Don't be evil," in their request for swift action from the leadership.

The laid-off employees wrote to Trade Algo, "inviting the C-Suite to iterate alongside us as Googlers do. To create something more approachable and compliant with the company's stated goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace."

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