Google software engineer fired for sick leave

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, laid off around 12,000 of its employees on Friday. Among those fired is Robyn Silber, a software engineer who says she was on medical leave after being mentally abused by her managers. She previously shared her story on TikTok.

Silber says she received an email Friday morning saying she was fired from Google. She told the Daily Dot that she will return to Google on February 1. Her leave of absence, which she says falls under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), was approved in August.

While the “fireoff” of an employee while on FMLA leave constitutes an illegal termination under New York state law, the Department of Labor requires that if an employee is “fired off” while on FMLA leave, “the employer must demonstrate that the worker would not be employed at the time of reinstatement.”

In a TikTok posted Jan. 7, Silber describes what she describes as “mental abuse” at the hands of three of her managers at Google. She says that although she was an aspiring engineer, or what Google calls L3, and was paid as such, her work was much more advanced than the level of her position.

Silber says her supervisors refused to promote her to a higher position, but she was at risk of being fired for staying in her L3 position for too long. She also says she was denied performance reviews.

“You have to make growth,” says Silber in her TikTok, which had over 550,000 views as of Friday. “Otherwise, your manager may argue that you are not achieving the necessary career growth to get to L4 [the next level position]in which case a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) will be imposed on you.”

A PIP is a plan that drives an employee who does not meet expectations to improve or lose their job; Silber says her managers have threatened her with a PIP on several occasions, even though she has successfully worked above her pay grade.

@programm.r Here’s *why* my manager’s actions are considered abuse. I would prefer to keep this internal, but ultimately pursue an enforcement action if legal is my only option (in which case, given the level of abuse, violation of disability laws, I will be seeking over a billion dollars in damages for which I have been forced to apply for housing and then refuse the application and punish me and everything that was committed in my life afterwards as a direct result). Given the unanimity of my fellow Witnesses (both inside *and* outside of my organization), I cannot stress enough how slam dunk this case is. It really is in Google’s best interest to keep this internal. #lifeatgoogle #googlers #softwareengineer #techtok #performanceimprovementplan #psychologicalabuse #badmanagement #autisticatwork #autisticsavant #actuallyautistic #autismintheworkplace #juniorengineer #employmentcontract #ineedlegalhelp #klage #google #arbeitsrechtsanwalt #needed #abusedatwork #exploited #traumatok ♬ O-Ton – programm.r

Google did not immediately respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment.

In a phone interview with the Daily Dot, Silber, who worked specifically on Google Classroom, also said she “owned” some of the infrastructure of parts of the Google Classroom, meaning she was the only expert on it and had big projects for her team led.

That tension of doing high-level work but still not getting promoted and being threatened with termination, Silber told the Daily Dot, constitutes “mental abuse” by her managers, which she has confirmed with the director of her program at Google .

As a result of this “mental abuse,” Silber said she developed PTSD and took a medical leave from Google. The Daily Dot has reviewed documents provided by Silber, which confirm the approval of her sick leave by the Google Leave of Absence Team and states that she is receiving short-term and New York disability benefits. Notes from her psychiatrist confirm her diagnosis of PTSD.

Thought she would have to return to Google as a condition of her vacation after it ended, Silber says she was “relieved” not to have to return to her job.

“The management was so bad in my team. And that doesn’t mean it’s all bad,” Silber told the Daily Dot. “But ultimately I would probably go back into the exact same situation, which would probably just traumatize me again.”

Silber does not plan to take legal action against Google over the dismissal, although she said she considered legal action after allegedly being asked to perform above average while denying her “access to performance evaluation and career ladder opportunities.” would.

“Traumatized is an understatement,” said Silber.


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*Initial publication: January 20, 2023 3:09 pm CST

Tricia Crimmins

Tricia Crimmins is the IRL Editor at the Daily Dot. She is also a New York-based comedian and an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. She has previously written for Mashable, Complex Networks and Moment magazine. She can be found on Twitter at @TriciaCrimmins.

Tricia Crimmins Google software engineer fired for sick leave

Jaclyn Diaz

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