MS faces fight with OJ's Johnnie Cochran

Another class action race/sex discrimination case


Microsoft is facing another class action complaint 'alleging a pattern and practice of race and sex discrimination against African Americans and female salaried employees in violation of the federal civil rights laws.'

And its been filed by OJ Simpson's defender Johnnie Cochran together with another major legal firm Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, P.L.L.C. Cochran works for Cochran, Cherry, Givens, and Smith, P.C.

The Consolidated Amended Class Action Complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle.

The press statement on the action states: "The four named plaintiffs in the case have alleged they have been affected by Microsoft's policy of allowing managers to exercise excessive subjectivity in deciding on compensation, evaluations, promotions, and job selections, such that the decisions were infected with racial and/or gender bias."

Three of the named plaintiffs are current or former Microsoft employees in the Seattle area, one is a former employee who worked in Texas.

In addition to the Seattle case, there is another discrimination case pending against Microsoft in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, filed by Willie E. Gary of Gary, Williams, Parenti, Finney, Lewis, McManus, Watson, & Sperando. That case only involves claims for African American employees at Microsoft. It had been assigned to Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson. Microsoft's motion to transfer that case to Seattle is pending. ®

Here's how the plaintiffs are describing their experiences with Microsoft

Landruff E. Trent II, an African American male and another named plaintiff, began working for Microsoft as a Group Program Manager in June 1998. Four months later, the Group Manager, overseeing Data Center Operations, announced his departure and recommended Trent for the position. Trent was asked to perform the Group Manager duties, but not offered the position's salary or job title.

Trent received two excellent performance reviews while acting as Group Manager. Yet, in October 1999, his supervisor removed him from the position and promoted in his place a white individual who Trent had trained. Trent was demoted to manage a team known for underperforming and Trent had to report to the man who he previously had supervised. Trent turned that team around and received a good performance review in the summer of 2000. Shortly thereafter, Trent went on vacation. When he returned, he learned of an incident that had occurred while he was away. Trent's white manager made him the scape goat. Trent was told to "move on."
Since that time, Trent has applied for and been denied numerous positions at Microsoft.

Donaldson (not getting a first name here) began her career at Microsoft in 1992 as a "contract" employee. She became a full-time employee the following year and consistently received excellent review ratings. In 1996, Donaldson left Microsoft to pursue another opportunity. She returned to the Microsoft in 1998 as a Technical Writer. At first she got along well with the white male Project Lead in her group. In fact, he frequently sought her advice on management and morale issues. However, in a discussion prior to the review process, he told her that there were several areas where she did not have certain "core competencies." When she asked him for examples, he could not provide any, became defensive and ended the meeting.

Soon after, Donaldson was offered the position of Program Manager in the MSN Operations Group. Because she left in the middle of a review period, her former Project Lead conducted her performance review. He gave her an undeserved rating which reflected his racial and gender biases as well as his dissatisfaction that other managers felt her performance was better than he did.

When Donaldson's began in the position of Program Manager, Microsoft changed its grade level system. Donaldson was denied the standard level for her position because of her former supervisor's biased evaluation. Within three months, Microsoft hired the contractor as a full-time employee and made him her supervisor although he was unqualified for the position and the position was not posted prior to Microsoft's decision to interview him. Donaldson's office was moved to another building which isolated her from her team.

Donaldson asked permission to interview internally at Microsoft, but was denied the amount of time normally given to employees. In February 2000, another group was interested in hiring Donaldson, but her supervisor gave her a performance review score which prevented the group from hiring her. In May 2000, Donaldson resigned because of the discrimination she experienced.

Douglas had an 11 year career at Microsoft which ended in April 2000 when he resigned from Microsoft because of its practices of denying him promotions and equitable compensation. In 1995, Douglas was a Program Manager, overseeing Microsoft's global e-mail system migration. The following year, when the project was nearly complete, Douglas' white supervisors brought in a white Project Manager to take over the project and as a result, receive credit for its success. Douglas had been promised a promotion at the end of the project which he never received.

After a corporate re-organisation, Douglas became a Program Manager for Microsoft's Office Group. His white manager assigned Douglas to a product that would ship in April 1997. After it successfully shipped, Douglas was told that he would get an excellent performance review score. However, instead, Douglas received an average score and was told that his ability to write code was insufficient. This was the first time such a requirement had ever been mentioned for the position. Douglas' supervisor refused to let him take training courses and instead asked him to leave the group. Douglas expressed interest in another position in the group, but his manager offered it to a white person who was less qualified for the position.

Douglas transferred positions. He stayed in the next group for 15 months. His manager in that group was directed to take courses on improving communications and interpersonal relations after half of the team resigned because of the treatment they received. In February 1999, Douglas transferred positions and became responsible for MSN's intranet site, used by nearly 4,000 people. In November 1999, Douglas' supervisor announced that he was leaving and agreed to conduct Douglas' review before his departure. Douglas received an excellent review and a promotion request. Yet, the new manager rejected his review score and promotion in February 2000. Douglas appealed his review and was awarded a salary and grade level increase. Soon after, he learned that Microsoft had offered a white male contractor a full-time position as a Program Manager. This individual was making $15,000 more per year than Douglas and received a $10,000 signing bonus and higher grade level. This white employee had no prior management experience, in contrast to Douglas' five years.


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