Google office in New York February 2, 2023.
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Google According to former employees and correspondence seen by CNBC, it tells former employees who were fired while on maternity and medical leave that they will not be paid for their remaining leave.
More than 100 former workers have organized a group called “Fired on Leave”. They are asking managers to pay them for the weeks and months they were allowed to lay off before the job cuts were announced in January. Those who spoke to CNBC said they were told they would only be paid until the designated termination date, along with standard severance pay.
A group of former employees wrote to executives, including CEO Sundar Pichai and HR director Fiona Cicconi, three times, most recently on March 9, with no response. The group includes people who have been approved for or are on maternity leave, parental leave, carer’s leave, medical leave and personal leave.
Early last year, Google announced an increase in parental leave for full-time employees to 18 weeks for all fathers and 24 weeks for fathers. Cicconi said at the time that 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 since then, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has embarked on its most aggressive cost-cutting era in nearly two decades on the public market. In January, the company said it would cut 12,000 jobs, about 6% of its workforce, to account for slowing sales growth after a long period of expansion in the technology sector.
Pichai said American employees will receive 16 weeks of severance pay, plus two weeks for each additional year they work at Google. The company also said it would include paid vacation in the severance package.
Those who were fired while on medical leave are calling on Pichai and other executives to clarify the matter immediately because of the looming deadline: Official terms of the layoffs are expected to arrive on March 31.
The furlough group sent its first email to executives in January and shared specific examples of Googlers affected by job cuts during previously approved furloughs.
One woman said she was fired a week after being approved for maternity leave. Another said she received the message while on maternity leave, a week before she gave birth.
Some discussed the issue publicly.
“Exactly a week after I received the text and shared the exciting news that my maternity leave had been approved, I received the much-talked about email saying I was among the 12,000 terminated ,” wrote a Google program manager on LinkedIn. “An easy target? It is possible.”
Another longtime employee, Kate Howells, said she gave birth shortly before she received the message.
“On 01/20/23 at 7:05am, as I lay in my hospital bed holding my hours-old newborn, I found out I was one of #thegolden12K Googlers to be laid off,” Howells wrote. “I was a Google employee for 9.5 years.”
A Google spokesperson told CNBC in an email that departing employees are eligible for stock and back pay for their “60+ day notice period,” and echoed Pichai’s note about 16 weeks of pay and an additional two weeks for each year of service.
The company did not address whether it would cover full medical leave in addition to severance pay.
“As we’ve shared with affected employees, we’ve benchmarked this package to make sure the support we’re providing is better than other companies, including for Googlers on furlough,” the spokesperson said.
“Good Faith Effort”
Several people whose jobs were terminated told CNBC that their access to doctors and specialists through Google’s One Medical facility was also terminated the day the layoffs were announced. According to them, this disrupted the treatment that was going on at the time. The fired senior software engineer said he lost personal access to his primary care doctor of three years.
Some former employees said they were given the option to continue seeing their doctors virtually, but were advised to find a replacement.
A group of laid-off workers highlighted the fact that this is happening during Women’s History Month.
“Google currently demonstrates its commitment to the workplace and its involvement in Women’s History Month through various product and service campaigns,” the group wrote in an email sent to Google executives. “We agree with you: it is very important recognize the difficulties that still disproportionately affect women in the workplace.”
Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks at a panel discussion at the Americas CEO Summit hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce on June 9, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images
They said the company still has a chance to fix the problem.
“We respectfully request that the terms of our original parental and/or disability leave be honored in good faith for all leave that has been approved as of January 20, 2023,” the group wrote.
At an informal event hosted by Google’s Xoogler alumni group in January, more than 50 laid-off workers gathered for mutual comfort and answers. Kushagra Srivastava, one of the organizers, told CNBC the story of a mother who said at the event that she was “fired trying to take care of a three-month-old baby, and that was pretty hard to hear.”
Not only young mothers and those who are about to give birth are in a hopeless situation. The email to management also mentions the challenges faced by pregnant women who have not yet formally requested time off and as a result “will have an even longer journey to new roles given the points they are at during their pregnancy”. “
At the new employer, those women will have to wait a year for benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act to take effect, “making it impossible for expectant and new mothers to use the FMLA they’ve paid for to the detriment of their health and the well-being of their child.” the group said. “Paternity and medical leave are putting an unusual strain on the ability of laid-off Googlers to immediately find new jobs.”
The group’s letter listed companies such as Amazonwho said they would pay the balance of their leave in addition to their severance pay.
Employees who tried to contact Google about the matter said they lost access to the internal system and could only fill out a form on a separate short-term portal. Some said they received responses within a week of their request, and each said they received what appeared to be an automated response repeating the end date of their employment or asking them to reapply for another position.
In an email to CNBC, a group of laid-off workers said Pichai was far more concerned about the company’s efforts to keep up with the battle for AI dominance than he was about longtime employees who need help.
“When Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced the layoffs, he mentioned the company’s commitment to artificial intelligence three times, but never once did he mention Google’s commitment to accessibility,” the group wrote. “This is very important because accessibility is part of the true mission of the company. This clearly requires a refocusing of priorities. Unsurprisingly, with a botched demo a few days after the firing, Google showed that they really aren’t leading the way in AI. However, the good news is that there remains an incredible opportunity to become a leader in affordability in care for laid-off workers.”
Quality time with the child
The group also reminded Google executives of the importance of parental benefits and the company’s intent as it updated its plan. In particular, it said that parents should spend quality time with their newborns without the stress of having to think about work and rush to the office.
“Google has designed its parental benefits with this in mind, emphasizing that parents need time off to recover and bond with their new babies,” the email to executives said.
Some are hoping that the problem is simply an oversight and that managers will take corrective action because the company has promised them a certain amount of fully paid vacation time.
“Providing full remaining vacation days for planned and future vacations will be largely consistent with Google’s current policy for paying employees’ accrued time off (PTO) in this round of layoffs,” the letter said.
The group cited Google’s original core value, “Don’t be evil,” in asking management to act immediately.
“We invite the C-Suite to do the same with us as Googlers,” the fired employees wrote to CNBC. – To come up with something more accessible and consistent with the company’s touted commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. “
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