Former Google employee behind viral memo claims pregnancy discrimination and retaliation

A Seattle who claims she lost her career trajectory at Google when she stood up for a pregnant co-worker, then suffered and herself when she became pregnant, filed a complaint this week with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Washington State Human Rights Commission.

In the complaint, Chelsey Glasson, 36, alleges she was a victim of retaliation and gender and disability discrimination at the hands of her managers at the tech giant where her previous performance reviews had been glowing.

The complaint, filed Wednesday, alleges Google violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act in actions against her and the other pregnant employee.

Before the University of Washington graduate resigned at the end of her maternity leave in August, Glasson posted a on an internal Google message board titled, “I’m Not Returning to Google After Maternity Leave, and Here is Why” that was widely read both inside and outside the company.

The complaint is a precursor to a federal lawsuit against Google that Glasson has said she intends to file. On a Go Fund Me page to help fund her legal battle, Glasson said she would not “be silenced.”

“Pregnancy discrimination is sadly an issue that many families face, even at the most progressive companies,” she wrote.

Google did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.

The claim comes as Google faces increasing internal pressure to address the way company handles misconduct investigations and reports of retaliation.

Glasson started as a Level 3 user experience (UX) researcher at Google in 2013 and over the next few years was rated “superb,” was promoted to Level 4 then 5 UX researcher and “established a track record of consistent and reliable performance that resulted in multiple promotions, awards, raises, and bonuses within Google,” the complaint says.

According to the complaint, Glasson’s director wrote in her 2017 performance review that she was “a consistent powerhouse in UXR!”

Under the same director, Glasson was made manager of a six-member team in February 2018 and in her performance review one month later was told she was “rock solid,” that she had stepped into and “owned” her management role from day one and was on a “fast track” for a promotion to Level 6, the complaint alleges.

After she became a manager, the director for whom she worked began to make “inappropriate comments about a member of my team, including that the employee was likely to become pregnant again, that she was overly emotional and hard to work with when pregnant” and that the employee should leave Google, the complaint alleges.

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Glasson said she worried the director was trying to “” the employee off the team and reported her concerns to human resources. She claims human resources told her the director might learn of her comments, but that the company had strong measures in place to prevent retaliation.

Almost immediately, the director began sending Glasson angry emails, vetoing her projects and publicly shaming her, the complaint alleges.

When she reported those actions to human resources, she was told the director’s behavior was being addressed through coaching, the complaint claims.

When Glasson became pregnant with her second child in July 2018, she worried the stress of a hostile environment was taking a toll on her health, according to the complaint, and she began to look for another job within the company.

According to the complaint, she took a management position with lesser responsibility on another team and was soon  told by her new director and a manager that they were concerned her upcoming maternity leave would “stress the team” and “rock the boat” and so she would not be taking on management responsibilities until after her return.

“Prohibiting a pregnant employee from performing management duties because she would be starting maternity leave in five months is unlawful discrimination,” the complaint says.

A few weeks later, Glasson says, she was diagnosed with a -related condition that was life-threatening and could require bed rest or hospitalization.

When Glasson talked about the possibility of early maternity leave to her new manager, she was told a management position might not be available upon her return, the complaint alleges.

The manager also said a National Public Radio segment had debunked the benefits of bed rest and that she had ignored her own doctor’s order for bed rest and had worked until the day she gave birth, the complaint alleges.

In her vow to take Google to court, Glasson wrote that how she was treated by her employer was one of the most difficult experiences of her life. In her internal memo she wrote, “I stood up for a mother on my team and doing so sent me down a path that destroyed my career trajectory at Google.”

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