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Ex-staffers slam Microsoft's 'lackluster' response to stacks of internal complaints

Court docs reveal women filed over 230 internal complaints of discrimination, harassment

More than 230 internal complaints of harassment and discrimination within Microsoft were handled in a “lackluster” way by the business, according to documents made public yesterday in a class action lawsuit.

The case was first filed in 2015 and the lead plaintiffs, Katherine Moussouris and Holly Muenchow, are seeking approval to bring the suit as a class action covering more than 8,600 women.

They have accused Microsoft of running a “common, discriminatory pay and promotions process” that is “unreliable” and “based on invalid criteria”, resulting in lower pay and fewer promotions for women.

The plaintiffs argue (PDF, 51 pages) that the process operates “within the context of a corporate culture that systematically devalues women’s contributions”.

Their latest filing, submitted to the Washington Western District Court yesterday, aims to demonstrate this culture is leading to widespread complaints, revealing there were 238 internal complaints made to Redmond between 2010 and 2016.

Of these, 108 were of sexual harassment, 119 of gender discrimination, eight of retaliation and three of pregnancy discrimination.

The plaintiffs claimed Microsoft “does not properly investigate or redress” such complaints, and note only one of the gender discrimination complaints was “founded”.

Microsoft had argued the numbers shouldn’t be released as they might deter it from reporting future abuses, but Reuters reported that a court-appointed official said this was “far too remote a competitive or business harm”.

In the latest document, which is a motion to bring the case as a class action, the plaintiffs claimed Microsoft’s investigations team is “notorious… for ‘rubber-stamping’ management”, while employees have “little faith” in investigations.

“While 238 complaints lodged with HR by professional women making careers at a Fortune 50 company is shocking enough, what is even more disappointing is the lackluster response to the issues raised by the Microsoft team (“ERIT”) tasked with investigating complaints of Microsoft’s anti-discrimination and antiharassment policy,” the document said.

Furthermore, the plaintiffs alleged there isn’t a monitor for repeat offenders or retaliation against the complainant, and Redmond doesn’t mandate training in discrimination, anti-harassment or complaint handling.

However, Microsoft’s opposition to the motion said that it spends $55m a year on “innovative diversity and inclusion programs”. It added it had introduced “mandatory company-wide unconscious bias training, and created a robust internal investigation process to address employee concerns”.

Microsoft said in yesterday's filing that the plaintiffs’ claims were “simply not the stuff of which class actions are made”.

It argued that the plaintiffs “seek to certify a class of extraordinary breadth” and fail to challenge “an identifiable discriminatory practice”, with the claims lacking “the hallmark of typicality” needed for a class action suit.

There is no trial date for the case, and judge James Robart has yet to rule on a whether the plaintiffs will be allowed to bring a class action case against Redmond. ®

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