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Google won’t honor medical leave during its layoffs, outraging employees

A battered and bruised version of the Google logo.

Would you believe that Google’s mass firings from January are still going on? Google’s reported mishandling of its biggest round of layoffs ever has employees up in arms, and they’re doing everything from walking out on the job to sending angry letters to management.

First up, European Googlers are just now being laid off due to the January announcement. Reuters reports that more than 200 workers were laid off from the Zurich, Switzerland, branch of the company this week. The employees at that office walked out for a second time in protest of the move and even offered to take pay cuts or reduce working hours to stave off the job cuts. Google’s layoffs seem driven by a desire to placate the stock market, though, so it’s no surprise that these offers fell on deaf ears.

Many of the Swiss workers that walked out in protest are members of the IT workers union Syndicom, and a union spokesperson told Reuters, “Our members at Google Zurich and all employees joining the walkout are showing solidarity with those laid off. They are bothered by the non-transparent nature of the layoffs and are especially disappointed that Google is laying off workers at a time when the company is making billions in profit every year.”

Current and former employees feel Google is being cruel in how it’s treating employees who were on medical or parental leave during the layoffs. CNBC reports that Google has decided to not honor pre-approved leave for laid-off employees. Some Googlers formed a group called “Laid off on Leave,” which is attempting to get Google to honor its previously agreed-to timelines for employees going through major life changes.

Making Google honor its previous leave agreements isn’t just about employees getting paid when they have medical or family issues; it’s also about having continual medical care when they need it most. As part of Google’s (seemingly discarded) plan to offer employees every perk imaginable, the company has on-site medical facilities that many employees make use of.

While employees’ severance packages might come with a few more months of health insurance, being fired means instantly losing access to Google’s facilities. If that’s where a laid-off Googler’s primary care doctor works, that person is out of luck, and some employees told CNBC they lost access to their doctors the second the layoff email arrived. Employees on leave also have a lot to deal with. One former Googler, Kate Howells, said she was let go by Google from her hospital bed shortly after giving birth. She worked at the company for nine years.

The Laid off on Leave group points out that Google is not measuring up to the image it promotes to the world, saying, “Google is currently showcasing its workplace commitments and its participation in Women’s History Month through various products and services campaigns. We agree with you: it’s very important to recognize the hardships that still disproportionately affect women inside the workplace.”

Yet another group of Googlers posted an open letter to CEO Sundar Pichai asking the company to continue to employ people during medical leave, freeze new hires during the layoff process, and prioritize re-hiring laid-off employees in the future. The letter also asks Google to ensure that the firings don’t discriminate against anyone and that the company protect employees facing humanitarian crises by not laying off visa-holding employees from Ukraine or Russia. Over 1,300 Googlers have signed the letter so far.

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