Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
Microsoft Legal Team Criticized by Judge in Gender Discrimination Suit

Microsoft Legal Team Criticized by Judge in Gender Discrimination Suit

A federal judge has criticized Microsoft’s lawyers in the gender bias class action lawsuit against the tech giant for not following court orders and thus prolonging the case due to their inaction. The lawsuit arises out of claims by three current and former Microsoft employees who accused the technology company of discriminating against women in technical roles with respect to Microsoft’s pay and promotion practices.

According to the female plaintiffs, their male colleagues had been promoted at a faster rate, despite being less qualified for the job in at least some instances. The complaint alleges that the company’s sexist policies and gender bias violated Title VII and the Washington Law Against Discrimination.

U.S. District Judge James Robart ordered Microsoft in June to provide internal documentation with dates starting from January 2010. Despite the judge’s order, Microsoft’s legal team refused to provide the range of documents required and continued to clash with plaintiffs’ lawyers. Judge Robart criticized Microsoft in a September 7 hearing in Seattle “for forcing him to rule on the same issue twice, accusing the company’s legal team of being overly aggressive and trying to find loopholes in his orders,” reported The Seattle Times.

“I am sincere in my concern over the frequency with which Microsoft has placed this court in having to go back and remedy situations which appear to me to be the result of over-aggressive lawyers,” Robart said. Evidencing frustration with Microsoft’s counsel from the Orrick firm, Robart went on to note: “Well, it is clear that I do not speak Orrick,” Robart replied. “It is also clear to me, at this point, that the Orrick firm doesn’t speak English.”

Reportedly, Microsoft legal teams have a history of refusing to make reasonable efforts to achieve settlements in previous cases. Microsoft is well-known as the behemoth that honed previous generations’ giant IBM’s market strategy of promoting “fear, uncertainty, and doubt” in the marketplace into an aggressive weapon against myriad opponents from the 1990s onward (the widely acknowledged practice, abbreviated as “FUD,” has its own Wikipedia entry).

Background on the Microsoft Gender Lawsuit

On September 16, 2015, a gender discrimination class action lawsuit was filed against Microsoft Corporation. The class action, Moussouris v. Microsoft Corporation, Case No. 15-cv-01483, was brought by Katie Moussouris, a former female Microsoft technical professional on behalf of herself and all current and former female technical professionals employed by Microsoft in the U.S. since July 18, 2010. On October 27, 2015, an amended complaint was filed, adding current Microsoft employees Holly Muenchow and Dana Piermarini as named plaintiffs, in addition to Ms. Moussouris.

Allegations of Sex Discrimination in the Workplace by Microsoft

The class action complaint alleges that Microsoft has engaged in systemic and pervasive 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 unchecked gender bias that pervades Microsoft’s corporate culture has resulted in female technical professionals receiving less compensation than similar men, the promotion of men over equally or more qualified women, and less favorable performance evaluation of female technical professionals compared to male peers.

Complete case information is available at microsoftgendercase.com.