Microsoft HR embroiled in 'shocking' harassment lawsuit

Microsoft HR embroiled in 'shocking' harassment lawsuit

Microsoft’s HR failings have been highlighted in a court filing accusing the software giant of having an “exclusionary ‘boys’ club atmosphere” that is “rife with sexual harassment” – The Guardian reports.

According to an unsealed ongoing class-action lawsuit, filed in 2015 by three female employees, plaintiffs accuse the software company of systemic gender disparities in pay and promotion in technical and engineering roles at Microsoft, as well as failing to properly investigate cases of harassment and discrimination.

The documents, which were first reported by The Seattle Times, contains almost 108 complaints of sexual harassment, 119 complaints of gender discrimination, eight complaints of retaliation and three complaints of pregnancy discrimination made between 2010 to 2016 by US female employees. At least three women reported sexual assault or rape by male co-workers.

Yet, after investigating more than a hundred complaints of gender discrimination, Microsoft concluded that only one was “founded”.

The plaintiffs allege that the human resources department failed to investigate and manage these complaints properly. “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 lacklustre response to the issues raised by the Microsoft team tasked with investigating complaints of Microsoft’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy,” said the court filing.

The suit contains memos from the Employee Relations Investigations Team (ERIT) who found evidence of improper behaviour, but no violation of company policy. In one 2013 memo, an internal investigator documented a complaint by four staff members about a male co-worker who touched them inappropriately during a party. The investigator ruled that the male employee in question displayed ‘poor judgement’ but didn’t violate company policy. According to court documents, Microsoft said internal investigators are “licensed attorneys with years of investigation experience and training.”

Microsoft are fighting the lawsuit, claiming that the allegations are based on individual circumstances. "Diversity and inclusion are critically important to Microsoft," the company said in a statement, adding it encourages employees to speak up with complaints. “We take all employee concerns seriously and have a fair and robust system in place to investigate employee concerns and take appropriate action when necessary.”

The shocking findings comes amidst new research which found that almost a quarter of men (23%) believe it’s perfectly fine for an employer to expect an employee to have sex with them.

The survey, commissioned by the humanitarian organisation CARE and conducted by Harris Poll, which quizzed 9,408 adults across eight different countries worldwide, including the UK and the US, found a stark difference between what male and female employees deem as acceptable.

In Egypt 62% of men surveyed believe it is okay for employers to expect ‘intimate interactions’ from employees. 44% of US men aged 18-34 think it’s sometimes or always OK to tell a sexy joke at work, compared to only 22% of women in the same age group.

In addition, 35% of 25-34-year-old Brits consider it acceptable to pinch a colleague’s bum as a joke.

“Being expected to have sex with your employer — that’s not a job description, it’s sexual abuse,” said Michelle Nunn, CARE’s President and CEO. “We still have such a long way to go in stamping out sexual harassment and abuse globally.

"Whether it’s inside office buildings in the U.S., factories in India or the often-overlooked workplaces of housekeepers and caretakers in Latin America.”

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