Aug 17, 2023 - News

Seattle woman details pregnancy discrimination fight with Google in new book

Split screen image of a woman and the cover of a book.

A portrait of Chelsey Glasson and the cover of her soon-to-be-released book. Photo courtesy of Kiersten Marie

Despite new federal and state laws protecting pregnant workers, stigma, financial burden and lack of resources allow pregnancy discrimination to persist, according to Chelsey Glasson, a Seattle woman whose public fight against Google became the basis for a new book out next month.

Why it matters: The majority of pregnant women in the U.S. each year are pregnant on the job, according to an analysis of census data from the National Partnership for Women and Families.

Driving the news: In the self-published "Black Box: A Pregnancy Discrimination Memoir," Glasson says victims of pregnancy discrimination need access to funding and support given how costly discrimination and harassment lawsuits are.

Of note: Google did not respond to emails requesting comment.

State of play: Research suggests that the prevalence of workplace inequities faced by pregnant women far exceeds the number of pregnancy discrimination charges formally filed with the EEOC, according to the Center for American Progress.

What she's saying: "I want people to read 'Black Box' and understand … passing laws alone isn't impactful if enforcing them is out of reach for most," Glasson told Axios.

Catch up quick: The UW grad said she had been working at Google for nearly five years, earning stellar reviews and promotions, when she posted a memo in 2019 on an internal Google message board titled "I'm Not Returning to Google After Maternity Leave, and Here is Why."

  • In it, she said her manager made disparaging remarks about a member of Glasson's team who "was likely pregnant again" and that she faced retaliation for reporting it. She also accused another manager of withholding responsibility from her due to her own planned maternity leave.

That year she filed a complaint with the EEOC and the Washington State Human Rights Commission, followed by a lawsuit against Google in 2020.

  • Glasson said Google settled the suit two weeks before trial for an undisclosed amount after a two-year battle involving seven attorneys, seven expert witnesses, more than 10 depositions, multiple subpoenas and several rounds of written interrogatories.

Zoom out: Glasson points out there has been progress in recent years, including the Washington Legislature passing a law in 2020 giving pregnant people and new mothers more time to file complaints with the state Human Rights Commission.

What's next: It's important for the public to keep an eye on Big Tech companies as they race for a share of the AI market, Glasson said. "If a company is willing to go to great lengths to cover up illegal misconduct within its walls — pregnancy discrimination included — we should all wonder what corners will be cut to win the AI race."

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