In January, Google announced its plans to lay off 12,000 employees following a change in the company’s priorities, where AI came first. While CEO, Sundar Pichai promised six months of paid healthcare, job placement, immigration support, and severance packages, ex-staff members who were on leave during the layoffs are still fighting to get their agreed amounts.
In a report to CNBC, former employees laid off while on medical and maternity leave are being rejected from further payments by Google. About 100 of the concerned employees formed a group called “Laid off on Leave” where they asked the company’s executives to pay them the agreed amount before the job cuts were announced. They added that Google is only paying them the standard severance and the amount due at their designated times, hence, excluding the pay for the rest of the leave.
The ex-employees have written three letters – the first being in January and the latest on March 9 – to Pichai and Chief People Officer Fiona Cicconi, however, none of the executives have responded. Furthermore, since the laid-off staff have lost access to internal communications channels, it has become increasingly difficult for them to contact the existing members. The employees also urged for clarity on the matter as official severance terms are expected to arrive by March 31 and shared examples of how the job cuts while on leave have affected them. Zimberlyn Bolton, an ex-Google program manager mentioned how after a week of her leave being approved, she was laid off.
The issue is not limited to paid leave, it extends to the employees being cut off from their access to Google’s On-site One Medical facility as well, hence, disrupting ongoing treatments. While some were allowed to maintain virtual contact with their doctors, others were encouraged to look for substitutes.
Still, the employees hope that the company might consider their hardships and respect the initial agreements made. They added:
We respectfully request a good faith effort to honor the terms of our original parental and/or disability leave arrangements for all leaves that were approved as of January 20, 2023.”
The letter also highlighted companies like Amazon, who despite laying off employees, agreed to pay for the remainder of their leaves as well as give out severance packages. The ex-employees argued that the company’s claim to prioritize AI hinders the company’s actual mission: accessibility. They said in an email to CNBC:
“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. This matters deeply because accessibility is part of the company’s actual mission. This clearly calls for a re-centering of priorities. It’s unsurprising that through a bungled demo just days after laying us off, Google showed they’re indeed not leading the way in AI. However, the good news is that an incredible opportunity remains to be an accessibility leader in the treatment of laid-off workers.”
Lastly, the group talked about the importance of parental benefits and responsibilities which were affected by the company’s decision. Believing that Google still has an opportunity to make things right, they wrote:
“We invite the C-Suite to iterate with us like Googlers do. To come up with something more accessible and in line with the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion workplace commitments the company touts.”
In contrast to this, a Google spokesperson highlighted that the company never mentioned covering a full medical leave. According to the spokesperson, the packages were benchmarked to “ensure the care we’re providing compares favorably with other companies, including for Googlers on leave.” The package is 16 weeks of pay and 2 additional weeks for every year at Google, stock and salary for the notification period, and other bonuses.