PPG Manager Says Motherhood Took Shine Off Star, Derailed Career

A former PPG Industries global support product manager says her status as a new mom knocked her off the company’s “fast track” for promotion to senior management. It also effectively killed her career at the Fortune 500 global paints supplier, Rachael DeMeio says.

She says she worked successfully from home for a year after the birth of her first child. But she was denied a work-at-home accommodation and demoted to an hourly contractor role after announcing her second pregnancy, DeMeio says in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Pittsburgh March 1.

The U.S. Supreme Court held in 2015 that federal law requires an employer to provide the same or similar job accommodations to pregnant workers as it provides to employees with similar work restrictions. And sociologists and civil rights advocates have said for years that working mothers-especially moms with young children-face a “motherhood penalty” that causes them to be underpaid, underrated, and denied the same job opportunities and benefits as men and working women who don’t have kids.

DeMeio says her supervisor told her he didn’t think she could handle working from home with two small children and instead needed to come into the office full-time. But at the same time other global managers who reported to the same supervisor and were either male or had only one kid or older children were permitted to work remotely, she says.

A woman with only one older child was given her global support product manager job, DeMeio says.

“As a matter of policy, PPG does not comment on specific, pending legal matters,” a company spokesman told Bloomberg Law in a March 2 email.

Retaliation, Harassment Alleged 

DeMeio says she was asked whether she had any kids or planned to have them during her interview for the global support product manager position. She was warned that the job was demanding and involved a market dominated by men, her complaint says.

She excelled in the role anyway, DeMeio says, even after having her first child, as the irregular hours and frequent travel enabled her to set her own schedule and balance work with motherhood. She was even assigned additional duties and moved to a higher pay band during this period, she says.

Supervisor Sean Purdy promised DeMeio she would be assigned at least 24, and as many as 40, hours per week in the contractor position he demoted her to, DeMeio says. But after she filed a discrimination charge with the federal government, her hours “dwindled” to below 24 per week, she says. She also was no longer assigned high-level projects and Purdy hindered her performance on the projects she was assigned when he stopped responding to her emails, DeMeio says.

The retaliation spurred by DeMeio’s discrimination charge also included PPG confiscating her facilities access badge and refusing to consider her for new full-time positions, according to the complaint.

DeMeio was also sexually harassed by a supervisor earlier in her PPG career when she worked at the company’s Monroeville Chemical Center research facility, she claims.

The case is DeMeio v. PPG Indus., Inc. , W.D. Pa., No. 2:18-cv-00260, complaint filed 3/1/18.