thursday, 17 september of 2015

Microsoft Accused of Discriminating Against Women in Lawsuit

Microsoft Corp. was accused of discriminating against female employees in technical and engineering jobs, according to a lawsuit seeking class-action status that was filed Wednesday in federal court.

The lawsuit—filed by Katie Moussouris, who worked at Microsoft for seven years—accuses the software maker of paying women lower wages and promoting them less frequently, as compared with their male counterparts.

Microsoft said it would review the lawsuit. “We’re committed to a diverse workforce, and to a workplace where all employees have the chance to succeed,” a spokesman said.

Last year, Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella was criticized after he said women should not ask for raises and instead have faith in the system. Mr. Nadella later said he was “inarticulate” in his comments, and that the tech industry needed to close the pay gap for women so they aren’t forced to press for raises.

In general, the role of women in technology has become a flash point for controversy. Workforce composition disclosures by major tech companies, including Microsoft, have shown relatively low percentages of women, particularly in technical roles.

The gender discrimination lawsuit filed by Ellen Pao against venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers also pushed into the headlines allegations of sexism in Silicon Valley. However, Ms. Pao’s loss in the court system shows how hard these cases can be to prove.

According to the Microsoft lawsuit, Ms. Moussouris was employed at the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash., from April 2007 to May 2014 as a security program manager in the trustworthy computing group. The lawsuit alleged that Ms. Moussouris routinely received lower performance ratings than male peers despite performing better.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, also accuses a male supervisor of retaliating against Ms. Moussouris by assigning her a low bonus after she accused him of sexually harassing women in her department. According to the lawsuit, Microsoft concluded that he had been sexually harassing female employees after investigating the accusation.

The Microsoft spokesman said, “We’ve previously reviewed the plaintiff’s allegations about her specific experience and did not find anything to substantiate those claims, and we will carefully review this new complaint.”

The lawsuit seeks back pay and monetary damages among other penalties on behalf of Ms. Moussouris and a class defined as all-female technical employees employed by Microsoft in the U.S. from Sept 16, 2009, to the present.

(Published by The Wall Street Journal - September 16, 2015)

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