Google bans maternity and sick leave payments for laid-off employees

The Google office in New York on February 2, 2023.

Ed Jones | AFP | Getty Images

Google indicates to former employees laid off during maternity and sick leave that they will not be paid for all remaining time off, according to former employees and written correspondence with CNBC.

More than 100 former workers have formed a group they call Laid On Leave. They require executives to pay them for the weeks and months they were approved for before the job cuts were announced in January. Those who spoke to CNBC said they were told they would only receive their pay until the designated end date, along with a standard severance payment.

The group of former employees sent a letter to executives including CEO Sundar Pichai and Chief People Officer Fiona Cicconi on three separate occasions, most recently on March 9, with no response. The group includes persons who have been or are granted maternity leave, baby leave, caregiver leave, sick leave and personal leave.

Early last year, Google announced that this would be the case increase in parental leave for full-time employees to 18 weeks for all parents and 24 weeks for biological parents. Cicconi said at the time the company wanted to offer “extraordinary benefits” so employees could “spend more time with their new baby, care for a sick loved one, or take care of their own well-being.”

But Google parent Alphabet has entered the hardest era of cost-cutting in the public market in nearly two decades. The company announced this in January 12,000 job cutswhich accounts for about 6% of the workforce, expect sales growth to slow after a prolonged period of expansion in the technology sector.

Pichai said US employees would get 16 weeks of severance pay plus two weeks for each additional year they work at Google. The company also said it will include paid time off in the severance package.

Those laid off while on sick leave are urging Pichai and other executives to seek immediate clarity on the matter over an upcoming deadline: Official severance terms are expected to arrive as early as March 31.

The “Field on Vacation” group sent its first email to executives in January, sharing specific examples of Google employees who were impacted by job cuts while on previously-approved vacation time.

One woman said she was released a week after her maternity leave was approved. Another said she was given notice of termination a week before the birth while on maternity leave.

Some discussed the matter publicly.

“Exactly one week after I received the text message and shared the exciting news that my maternity leave was approved, I received the already much-discussed email telling me I was among the 12,000 who had quit,” a Google said -Program manager wrote On Linkedin. “Easy target? Perhaps.”

Another longtime collaborator, Kate Howells, Posted that she gave birth shortly before receiving the notification.

“On 1/20/23 at 7:05 am, while lying in the hospital bed with my hour-old newborn, I learned that I was part of the #thegolden12K of Googlers who had been released,” Howells wrote. “I was a Googler for 9.5 years.”

A Google spokesperson told CNBC in an email that departing employees are entitled to stock and salary for their “60+ day notice period,” repeating Pichai’s memo regarding 16 weeks of salary and an additional two weeks for each year of service.

The company did not specify whether it would cover all sick leave in addition to severance pay.

“While communicating with affected employees, we have benchmarked this package to ensure the care we provide compares well to other companies, including for Google employees on vacation,” the spokesman said.

“Good Faith Efforts”

They said the company still has a chance to fix the problem.

“We respectfully request that you make good faith efforts to honor the terms of our original parental and/or disability leave agreements for any leave approved from January 20, 2023,” the group wrote.

At an informal event hosted by Google alumni group Xoogler in January, more than 50 laid-off workers gathered to comfort one another and seek answers. Kushagra Shrivastava, one of the organizers, recalled to CNBC the story of a mother who spoke up at the event to say that she “was fired trying to care for a three-month-old child, and that was pretty hard to hear.”

Not only new mothers and mothers-to-be find themselves in a dilemma. The email to management also mentions the challenges faced by pregnant women who have not yet formally applied for leave of absence and will therefore “have an even longer road to securing new roles when they commit to the points where they are in their pregnancy. “

With a new employer, these women would have to wait a year for benefits under the Family and Sick Leave Act to take effect, “making it impossible for expectant and new mothers to use the FMLA they pay to the detriment of their health and the well-being of their baby.” , the group said, “Parental and sick leave places an exceptional strain on the ability of laid-off Google employees to immediately seek new employment.”

The group’s letter showed companies like Amazonwho said they would pay off Remaining leave in addition to severance pay.

Employees who tried to communicate with Google about the matter said they had lost access to the internal system and were only able to fill out a form on a separate portal on short notice. Some reported receiving responses a week after their request, and each reported receiving what appeared to be an automated response repeating the employment end date or instructing them to reapply for a different job.

In an email to CNBC, the group of laid-off workers said Pichai showed far greater concern for the company’s efforts to keep up in the fight for artificial intelligence supremacy than for caring for long-time employees who needed help.

“When Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced layoffs, he mentioned three times the company’s commitment to AI, but never once mentioned Google’s commitment to accessibility,” the group wrote. “This is of great importance as accessibility is part of the company’s very mission. Clearly, this requires a realignment of priorities. Unsurprisingly, through a botched demo just days after we were fired, Google showed that they are indeed not leaders in AI. The good news, however, is that there remains an incredible opportunity to be an accessibility leader in the treatment of redundant workers.”

quality time with baby

The group also reminded Google leadership of the importance of the parental allowance and the company’s intent as it updated its plan. In particular, parents should be able to have a good time with their newborn without the stress of thinking about work and rushing back to the office.

“Google developed its parenting funds with this in mind, emphasizing that parents need time to recover and connect with their new babies,” the email to executives said.

Some said they were confident that this problem was just an accident and that executives would remedy it because the company had promised them a certain amount of fully paid time off.

“Providing a full vacation remaining payout for planned and upcoming vacation days would be particularly consistent with Google’s current PTO payment policy in this round of layoffs,” the letter reads.

The group referenced Google’s original core value, “Don’t be angry,” as it urged leadership to respond immediately.

“We invite the C-suite to iterate with us as Google employees do,” the laid-off workers wrote to CNBC. “

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