A man walks through Google’s offices on January 25, 2023 in New York City.

Leonardo Munoz | Corbis News | Getty Images

Google indicates to former employees, who were laid off while on maternity and sick leave, that they will not be paid for all of their remaining leave, according to former employees and written correspondence shared with CNBC.

More than 100 former workers have organized a group they call “Laid off on Leave”. They are asking managers to pay them for the weeks and months they were approved to take off before the job cuts were announced in January. Those who spoke to CNBC said they have been told they will only receive pay until the specified termination date, along with standard severance pay.

The group of former employees sent a letter to managers, including the CEO Sundar Pichai and Chief People Officer Fiona Cicconi, on three separate occasions, most recently on March 9, without receiving any response. The group includes people who have been approved for or are currently on maternity leave, baby bonding leave, carer’s leave, sick leave and personal leave.

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

But Google’s parent company Alphabet has since entered its most difficult era of cost-cutting in its nearly two decades on the public market. The company said in January that it was eliminate 12,000 jobsrepresenting about 6% of its workforce, to expect slowing sales growth after an extended period of expansion in the technology sector.

Pichai said employees in the United States would receive 16 weeks of severance pay plus two weeks for each additional year they worked at Google. The company also said it would include paid time off in the severance package.

Those who were laid off while on medical leave are urging Pichai and other leaders to provide immediate clarity on the matter because of a looming deadline: official severance terms are expected as soon as March 31.

The group Laid off on Leave sent its first email to managers in January, sharing specific examples of Googlers affected by the cuts during their previously approved leave.

One woman said she was fired a week after her maternity leave was approved. Another said she was told when she was on maternity leave, a week before she was due to give birth.

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Some discussed the matter publicly.

“Exactly one week after I received the text message sharing the exciting news that my maternity leave was approved, I received the aforementioned email telling me I was among the 12,000 laid off,” a program manager at Google wrote on LinkedIn. “Easy target? Maybe.”

Another longtime employee, Kate Howells, Posted that she gave birth shortly before the announcement.

“On 1/20/23 at 7:05 a.m. as I lay in my hospital bed holding my hour-old newborn, I learned that I was part of #thegolden12K of Googlers who had been laid off,” 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 pay for their “60+ days’ notice” and echoed Pichai’s memo of 16 weeks’ pay plus two additional weeks for each year of service.

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

“As we shared with affected employees, we benchmarked this package to ensure the care we provide compares with other companies, including for Googlers who are on leave,” the spokesperson said.

‘Good Faith Effort’

Several people whose jobs were laid off told CNBC that their access to doctors and specialists through Google’s One Medical on-site facility was also cut off the day of the layoff announcement. It interfered with the treatment that was going on at the time, they said. A laid-off senior software engineer said he lost personal access to his primary care physician for three years.

Some ex-employees said they were given the option to continue seeing their doctors virtually but were otherwise advised to find replacements.

The group of laid off workers highlighted the fact that this is taking place during Women’s History Month.

“Google is currently showcasing its commitment to the workplace and its participation in Women’s History Month through various product and service promotions,” the group wrote in an email sent to Google executives. “We agree with you: it is very important to recognize the difficulties that still disproportionately affect women in the workplace.”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks at a panel at the CEO Summit of the Americas 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 the opportunity to fix the problem.

“We respectfully request a good-faith effort to honor the terms of our original parental leave and/or disability leave arrangements for all leaves authorized on 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 for mutual comfort and to seek answers. Kushagra Shrivastava, one of the organizers, recalled to CNBC the story of a mother who spoke at the event to say she “got fired trying to take care of a three-month-old, and it was pretty hard to hear.”

It is not only new mothers and those who are expecting soon who find themselves in a pinch. The email to management also mentions the challenges for pregnant women who have not yet formally requested leave and as a result “will have an even longer path to securing new roles given the points they are at in their pregnancies.”

At a new employer, those women would have to wait a year for Family and Medical Leave Act benefits to begin, “making it impossible for expectant and new mothers to use the FMLA they paid for to the detriment of their health and the well-being of their children.” , the group said. “Parental and sick leave places an extraordinary burden on laid-off Googlers’ ability to immediately seek new employment.”

The group’s letter pointed towards companies like Amazonwho have said they would pay out remaining vacation time 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 could only fill out a form on a separate short-term portal. Some said they received a response a week after their request, and each said they received what appeared to be an automated response, repeating their employment end date or urging them to apply for another position.

In an email to CNBC, the group of laid-off workers said Pichai showed much greater concern about the company’s efforts to keep up with battle for supremacy of artificial intelligence than it was to take care of long-standing staff who were in need of help.

“When Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced layoffs, he mentioned the company’s commitment to AI three times, but never once mentioned Google’s commitment to accessibility,” the group wrote. “This is of great importance because accessibility is part of the company’s actual mission. This clearly requires a refocusing of priorities. It is not surprising that through a split demo just days after we resigned, Google showed that they really aren’t leading the way in AI. But the good news is that there remains an incredible opportunity to be an accessibility leader in the treatment of furloughed workers.”

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