Microsoft claimed only one of 119 gender bias complaints had merit

by 14/03/2018 16:00:00 0 comments 1 Views
  • Court records released on Monday reveal the magnitude of gender bias complaints against Microsoft Corporation, filed between 2010 and 2016
  • Only one of 119 gender discrimination complaints made by women at the tech giant over a seven-year period was found by the company to have merit
  • When claims of sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and retaliation for complaining of any of the above were added in, the total number jumped to 231
  • These updated figures were confirmed to DailyMail.com by a plaintiff's attorney
  • Records also included previously redacted emails from within the company 
  • 'Our organization is empowering a culture of exclusion,' one employee wrote
  • These complaints form part of the basis for a gender discrimination class action lawsuit that was first filed in September 2015 by a former employee
  • Two current employees later joined, and class certification is now being decided

By Stephanie Haney For Dailymail.com and Associated Press

Published: 12:25 EDT, 14 March 2018 | Updated: 16:00 EDT, 14 March 2018

Only one of 119 gender discrimination complaints made by women at Microsoft over a seven-year period was found by the company to have merit, according to an attorney for plaintiffs in a gender discrimination lawsuit against the company.

Courts records made public on Monday reveal the magnitude of that specific type of complaint from female employees in US technical jobs with the company, between 2010 and 2016.

The single gender discrimination complaint that Microsoft's internal investigations team deemed to be 'founded' was first filed in 2016, but no other details were revealed.

When claims of sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and retaliation for complaining of any of the above were added in, the total number of complaints jumped to 231 over that same time period, Anne Shaver, attorney for the plaintiffs told DailyMail.com.

These complaints form part of the basis for a gender discrimination class action lawsuit that was first filed against Microsoft Corporation in September 2015 by former employee Katie Moussouris. 

Only one of 119 gender discrimination complaints made by women at Microsoft over a seven-year period was found by the company to have merit, according to unsealed court documents, forming part of the basis for a gender discrimination class action lawsuit that was first filed against Microsoft Corporation in September 2015 by former employee Katie Moussouris
Only one of 119 gender discrimination complaints made by women at Microsoft over a seven-year period was found by the company to have merit, according to unsealed court documents, forming part of the basis for a gender discrimination class action lawsuit that was first filed against Microsoft Corporation in September 2015 by former employee Katie Moussouris

Only one of 119 gender discrimination complaints made by women at Microsoft over a seven-year period was found by the company to have merit, according to unsealed court documents, forming part of the basis for a gender discrimination class action lawsuit that was first filed against Microsoft Corporation in September 2015 by former employee Katie Moussouris

An expert hired by Microsoft as part of the lawsuit submitted a report that clarified the now-public logs of complaints made by women against the company.

The expert said that complaints are either 'founded/substantiated policy violation or not,' according to the Seattle Times. This seems to suggest that 'founded' means the internal investigation team determined that a stated company policy was violated, following review of an employee complaint.

Unredacted versions of documents from previous filings in the lawsuit now also show emails written by Microsoft employees to management and executives that suggest a toxic corporate culture for women. 

'Our organization is actually empowering a culture of exclusion,' one employee wrote.

'This cultural backdrop has had a real effect on me,' wrote another, referencing the use of degrading terms to refer to women within the company. 

'I consider myself to be a strong person. I have a strong track record of performance over a long tenure. I should not feel powerless. But I do.'

Moussouris was joined one month after her initial filing, in October of 2015, by Holly Muenchow (pictured), who has worked at Microsoft since 2002 as an operations program manager who coordinates product releases, and Dana Piermarini, who has worked with the company's sales group to teach customers about company products since 2000
Moussouris was joined one month after her initial filing, in October of 2015, by Holly Muenchow (pictured), who has worked at Microsoft since 2002 as an operations program manager who coordinates product releases, and Dana Piermarini, who has worked with the company's sales group to teach customers about company products since 2000
Moussouris was joined one month after her initial filing, in October of 2015, by Holly Muenchow, who has worked at Microsoft since 2002 as an operations program manager who coordinates product releases, and Dana Piermarini (pictured), who has worked with the company's sales group to teach customers about company products since 2000
Moussouris was joined one month after her initial filing, in October of 2015, by Holly Muenchow, who has worked at Microsoft since 2002 as an operations program manager who coordinates product releases, and Dana Piermarini (pictured), who has worked with the company's sales group to teach customers about company products since 2000

Moussouris was joined one month after her initial filing, in October of 2015, by Holly Muenchow (left), who has worked at Microsoft since 2002 as an operations program manager who coordinates product releases, and Dana Piermarini (right), who has worked with the company's sales group to teach customers about company products since 2000

The documents were released as part of an ongoing lawsuit by one former and two current Microsoft employees alleging gender discrimination.

Former employee and the first named plaintiff to bring the lawsuit, Moussouris, worked on cybersecurity issues for the company.

She was joined one month after her initial filing, in October of 2015, by Holly Muenchow, who has worked at Microsoft since 2002 as an operations program manager who coordinates product releases, and Dana Piermarini, who has worked with the company's sales group to teach customers about company products since 2000.

The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for the case, which they first filed for in October 2017.

The plaintiffs seek certification of a class of female employees who worked in the Engineering or I/T Operations Professions and in stock levels 59-67 from September 16, 2012 to the present.

The plaintiffs claim from within this group, more than 8,600 women collectively lost out on $238 million in pay and 500 promotions because of discrimination in the company's performance review process.

Moussouris and the other named plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for the case, which they first filed for in October 2017
Moussouris and the other named plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for the case, which they first filed for in October 2017

Moussouris and the other named plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for the case, which they first filed for in October 2017

The plaintiffs seek certification of a class of female employees who worked in the Engineering or I/T Operations Professions and in stock levels 59-67 from September 16, 2012 to the present
The plaintiffs seek certification of a class of female employees who worked in the Engineering or I/T Operations Professions and in stock levels 59-67 from September 16, 2012 to the present

The plaintiffs seek certification of a class of female employees who worked in the Engineering or I/T Operations Professions and in stock levels 59-67 from September 16, 2012 to the present

Microsoft's case is one of several against giant companies in the technology industry.

The tech field has been criticized in recent years for its lack of female and minority employees and for a workplace culture that some say is hostile toward those groups.

The plaintiffs argue that men in similar roles with similar job performance were promoted faster and given more raises than their female colleagues at Microsoft.

The complaint specifically states that Piermarini raised concerns with Microsoft's human resources group that she was being treated unequally based on her gender, alleging that she was singed her out for child-care responsibilities that, she said, were comparable to those of male employees and did not have an effect on her job performance. According to the complaint, the company’s investigation team had found that her manager had not acted inappropriately.

Microsoft has said a class action isn't warranted because there is no common cause for the employees' complaints and plaintiffs have not identified systemic gender discrimination. The company has denied that systemic bias is taking place through its employee-review process.

In court documents, Microsoft also has stood behind its internal investigative process, which involves a four-person team that looks into each complaint filed with the company. 

In a statement released on Tuesday, a Microsoft spokesperson said all employee concerns are taken seriously and that the company has a 'fair and robust system in place' to investigate them.

US District Judge James Robart is hearing the case in US District Court in Seattle and is expected to decide on the class-action request in the next several months.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs say that such a decision can generally take anywhere from one to five months to be handed down.

Microsoft’s workforce is predominantly made up of white males, as is the case for many companies in the tech industry.

In 2017, Microsoft's global workforce consisted of more than 120,000 people, with  about 25.9 percent of those employees being female. Its technical employees, in general, were 19 percent female.

The plaintiffs in the gender discrimination lawsuit are represented by two law firms, including  the plaintiffs’ employment firm Outten & Golden LLP and the national class action firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP.

Attorneys Adam T. Klein, Cara E. Greene, and Ossai Miazad of Outten & Golden LLP and Kelly M. Dermody, Anne Shaver, and Sharon Lee of Lieff Cabraser Heimann and Bernstein LLP represent the plaintiffs. 

US District Judge James Robart is hearing the case in US District Court in Seattle and is expected to decide on the class-action request in the next several months
US District Judge James Robart is hearing the case in US District Court in Seattle and is expected to decide on the class-action request in the next several months

US District Judge James Robart is hearing the case in US District Court in Seattle and is expected to decide on the class-action request in the next several months

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