After announcing I was pregnant, my supervisor's boss began summoning me to his office for impromptu meetings where he referred to my pregnancy as “the problem."

By Shanon Lee
pregnant woman at desk
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In a 2,300-word memo titled I’m Not Returning to Google After Maternity Leave, and Here Is Why,” a Google employee alleged she suffered retaliation for reporting the discriminatory comments her boss made about a pregnant team member. She also claimed human resources failed to reprimand her boss, yet she was forced to change teams and threatened with a demotion following her own maternity leave. She resigned, detailing her harmful experience in the memo that reached more than 10,000 Google employees. 

“I’m sharing this statement because I hope it informs needed change in how Google handles discrimination, harassment and retaliation,” she wrote.

Unfortunately, her story is not unique. According to reports, pregnancy discrimination remains pervasive and responsible for systematically derailing the careers of women. While working as a college admissions advisor for a well-known university, I was harassed by a member of upper management after disclosing my pregnancy and later fired. 

Months before my termination, I reached out to the human resources department after my supervisors’ boss attempted to block my approved time-off. I was scheduled to attend a week-long residency in Costa Rica to fulfill the graduation requirements for my master’s degree. Though my time off request had already been approved by my immediate supervisor—it suddenly became an issue. His boss began summoning me to his office for impromptu meetings where he referred to my pregnancy as “the problem” and criticized my work performance. 

“Don’t let them bully you,” my supervisor advised when I shared I was being degraded and pressured to quit. While being threatened with job loss by day, I spent the evenings in and out of emergency rooms due to heavy bleeding and worried I would lose my baby.

Days before my trip, I suffered a miscarriage. After notifying the human resources department about the reason for my absence, I used the extra time off to visit my doctors, mourn, rest, and arrange a cremation. Then, I flew to Costa Rica for my residency. 

When I returned to my office, things escalated.

My department was being downsized and imminent lay-offs were rumored. I was not surprised to find myself sitting in a conference room a few weeks later, surrounded by elderly, pregnant, and disabled coworkers. We had each been singled out and deemed expendable. We were told we no longer had jobs.

We knew what was happening was wrong. Yet those who expressed defiance were advised to rethink declining a severance package that might allow them to survive a few months without a steady paycheck. Accepting the lump sum meant waiving our legal rights to sue for wrongful termination or discrimination, but most of us had no choice since we needed the money.

I had witnessed unfair labor practices before, abandoning a career in human resources after realizing our purpose was to protect the company’s bottom line. I felt helpless when employees were denied workers compensation or the FMLA they desperately needed. I knew that even with existing laws against pregnancy discrimination, employees have limited recourse once it happens. 

For his efforts trying to protect me and my job, my supervisor received his pink slip before I learned of mine. Before exiting the building, he hugged me and made it clear he would not have done anything differently. The battle to protect employees from pregnancy discrimination is being fought in offices across the nation, and it can only be won with the help of employees that are brave enough to speak out.