Google Employee Alleges Pregnancy Discrimination and Retaliation in an Internal Memo that Has Gone Viral


Just over 40 years ago, Congress passed The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the first federal law to protect pregnant workers. The PDA is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and makes it illegal for companies to discriminate against people “on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions.” The PDA provides that “[w]omen affected by pregnancy or related conditions must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work.”

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was intended to help combat discrimination against expecting mothers, but that has not always been the case, as illustrated in a memo written by a Google employee and mother.

The memo, titled “I’m Not Returning to Google After Maternity, and Here is Why,” surfaced earlier this month and has reportedly been viewed by more than 10,000 Google employees. The memo was initially posted to an internal company message board for expecting and new mothers and was then reposted to other internal message boards and has since gone viral.

The memo describes the author’s experience navigating pregnancy while working at Google and describes inappropriate comments made by multiple managers, months of back and forth with HR after reporting these complaints and being told “not to worry because strong measures are in place at Google to prevent retaliation,” and even harassment upon revealing a life-threatening health condition requiring early maternity leave.

If your employer has five or more employees, you are entitled to rights and protections under California state law in the event of pregnancy, childbirth, loss of pregnancy, and related physical or mental conditions. These rights and protections include the right to reasonable accommodations and the right to time off from work.  It is illegal for employers to fire, refuse to hire, bar, harass, discharge, or otherwise discriminate against someone because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related condition.  (Government Code, § 12945; Cal. Code Regs., tit. 2, § 11035).

If you have at least 12 months of service with your employer (and have worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12-month period), and your employer employs at least 20 employees within 75 miles of your worksite, you are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of parental leave to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement.  (Government Code, § 12945.6(a)(1)).

Workplace Justice Advocates, PLC has extensive experience aggressively litigating pregnancy discrimination claims and seeks to maximize recovery in this area by pushing cases to trial.

{Written by Brenda Armenta, current law student at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law]