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Microsoft Accused of Discrimination against Women

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San Francisco, CAMicrosoft has been hit with the latest California labor lawsuit alleging gender-based discrimination. This complaint comes on the heels of several discrimination lawsuits against other tech titans, including Google and Twitter.

Discrimination class-action lawsuit

Katie Moussouris, a former Internet-security technician, filed a discrimination class-action lawsuit against Microsoft on September 16, 2015 in federal court in Seattle - the tech giant’s HQ. The complaint alleges that Microsoft supervisors “didn’t like her style” and that the company upholds a “continuing policy, pattern and practice of sex discrimination against female employees in technical and engineering roles (“female technical employees”) with respect to performance evaluations, pay, promotions, and other terms and conditions of employment.”

The lawsuit claims that Microsoft gives employees numerical rankings based on performance evaluation, and routinely gave female workers lower ratings based on subjective criteria, Reuters reported. Further, Moussouris claims that she received a low bonus after reporting sexual harassment, which could be another strike against Microsoft - retaliation is also a violation of the California labor code. Microsoft promoted a senior director even after determining that he harassed female employees, according to the lawsuit.

Other discrimination lawsuits

Ellen Pao lost her discrimination lawsuit in 2012 against the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Former Facebook employee Chia Hong filed a discrimination and harassment lawsuit in March after she was terminated and “replaced by a less qualified, less experienced male,” according to her lawsuit. Also in March, former Twitter software engineer Tina Huang filed a discrimination lawsuit against the company claiming that Twitter used a secretive promotion process that mostly favored men, according to the suit.

Although Pao had reports of bad performance, both Hong and Moussouris could not be faulted for their work. Despite receiving “satisfactory performance evaluations,” Hong was fired. And Moussouris was commended for “outstanding performance,” according to her complaint.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said women don’t need to ask for a raise and should instead put their trust in the system - which is overwhelmingly male. At an event last October for women in technology, he said that “It’s not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along.”

After he was jeered for the discriminatory comments, Nadella did an about-face and said, “Our industry must close gender pay gap so a raise is not needed because of a bias.” Nadella said he supports programs at Microsoft and in the industry that bring more women into technology and close the pay gap. “I believe men and women should get equal pay for equal work,” she told the Christian Science Monitor.

A few facts

• Almost 70 percent of tech employees are male and the gender gap is even wider at Microsoft: Of its 120,000 employees, 72% of the employees, 83% of the technical workers and 83% of the leadership are men.

• In 2014, men in the tech industry earned almost 25 percent more than their female counterparts, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

• The number of charges filed on the basis of equal pay act discrimination has decreased from 1,134 in 1997 to 938 in 2014, though sex-based wage discrimination can also be filed under sex discrimination, which has increased since 1997, according to the US Equal Employment Commission.

• In 1984, 37 percent of computer science graduates were women. Today, women represent 12 percent of all computer science graduates.

• Although women account for half of the US workforce, females only represent 25 percent of jobs in tech or computing fields.

• The US Department of Labor projects that by 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer specialist job openings.

Microsoft discrimination lawsuit

Moussouris, who was employed at Microsoft from 2007 to 2014, is asking any female tech worker employed by Microsoft in the past six years to come forward, which may help the case gain class-action certification. It has been speculated that damages could exceed $5 million. The case is Katherine Moussouris v. Microsoft Corp, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, No. 15-cv-1483.

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