Microsoft commissions third-party review of its harassment and discrimination policies

- Published: 14 January 2022
Image by Alex Castro / The Verge

Microsoft’s board of directors is hiring a law firm to review the company’s policies on sexual harassment and discrimination after years of complaints of wrongdoing at the company. The review, which will be conducted by law firm Arent Fox, will include a public transparency report “assessing the effectiveness of the company’s workplace sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies, training, and related policies.”

It will also include an assessment of Microsoft’s previous investigation into allegations against the company’s co-founder and former CEO Bill Gates. GeekWire reports that this review won’t reinvestigate Gates’ affair with a company employee in the year 2000. Bill Gates resigned from the Microsoft board in March 2020, and reportedly left before Microsoft had completed its investigation.

The board report will also examine multiple allegations of discrimination and harassment that were surfaced in an internal Microsoft email chain in 2019. Allegations of sexual harassment, stories about demeaning behavior, and sexist comments were all highlighted in the email chain where Microsoft employees complained the company didn’t take any action in many cases.

Microsoft was also the subject of a five-year lawsuit over fair pay that was originally filed in 2015. The lawsuit, filed by former Microsoft employee Katie Moussouris, claimed that the company unfairly discriminated against female employees because of their gender. Moussouris dropped her case in 2020, but is still fighting for fair pay across the tech industry.

“We’re committed not just to reviewing the report but learning from the assessment so we can continue to improve the experiences of our employees,” says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a statement accompanying the announcement of the review. “I embrace this comprehensive review as an opportunity to continue to get better”.

Here’s what Microsoft says its review will address:

  • “It will lead to the public release of a transparency report assessing the effectiveness of the company’s workplace sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies, training, and related policies. This will include a review of concerns raised by employees in 2019 in the “In Need of Assistance” email thread, steps the company has taken to respond to these concerns, and additional steps that could further strengthen these safeguards. The review will also include an analysis of policies, practices, and commitments to create a safe, inclusive work environment.”
  • “The report will summarize the results of any sexual harassment investigations during this same timeframe against members of the Board of Directors and the company’s Senior Leadership Team, including the allegations that a Board committee investigated beginning in 2019 involving Bill Gates.”
  • “It will assess the steps that have been taken to hold employees, including executives, accountable for sexual harassment or gender discrimination.”
  • “The report will include data on the number of sexual harassment cases investigated and their resolution.”
Source: theverge.com