Between 2010 and 2016, court filings made public on Monday revealed 238 internal complaints about gender discrimination or sexual harassment were filed by women at Microsoft Corp working in U.S.-based technical jobs, Reuters reported.
The figure was cited by plaintiffs suing Microsoft for systematically denying pay raises or promotions to women, while Microsoft denies it had any such policy.
Filed in Seattle federal court in 2015, according to Reuters, plaintiffs’ attorneys are pushing to proceed as a class action lawsuit, which could cover more than 8,000 women. However, U.S. District Judge James Robart has not yet ruled on the request for class action status.
Currently, both sides are exchanging documents ahead of trial, which has not been scheduled.
In legal filings submitted as part of the process, more details about Microsoft’s human resources practices were made public on Monday.
According to the unsealed court filings, of 118 gender discrimination complaints filed by women at Microsoft, only one was deemed “founded” by the company. Reuters reported that attorneys for the women described the number of complaints as “shocking” in the court filings, and said the response by Microsoft’s investigations team was “lackluster.”
In a review of federal lawsuits filed between 2006 and 2016, Reuters found hundreds containing sexual harassment allegations where companies used common civil litigation tactics to keep potentially damning information under wraps.
While Microsoft had argued that the number of womens’ HR complaints should be secret since publicising the outcomes could deter employees from reporting future abuses; a court-appointed official found that scenario “far too remote a competitive or business harm” to justify keeping the information sealed.
Reuters noted that companies generally keep information about internal discrimination complaints private, making it unclear how the number of complaints at Microsoft compares to those at its competitors.
In a statement on Tuesday, Microsoft said it had a robust system to investigate concerns raised by its employees, and that it wanted them to speak up.
In court filings, the software company stated it budgets more than US$55 million a year to promote diversity and inclusion. The company had about 74,000 U.S. employees at the end of 2017.
Microsoft further noted that plaintiffs cannot cite one example of a pay or promotion problem in which Microsoft’s investigations team should have found a violation of company policy but did not.
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