Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
Judge Denies Microsoft’s Attempt to Throw Away Gender Bias Claims

Judge Denies Microsoft’s Attempt to Throw Away Gender Bias Claims

As reported by Law360, U.S. District Judge James L. Robart has denied Microsoft’s bid to dismiss certain discrimination claims in the lawsuit brought against the tech giant by a group of former and current female technical employees at the company. The employees have accused Microsoft of discriminating against female workers via its “stack ranking” employee evaluation process, which they argue has a disparate and negative impact on women. Last month, Judge Robart criticized Microsoft for not following court orders, in his view improperly prolonging the case because of inaction by the tech company’s legal team.

The complaint alleges that Microsoft is in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Washington State Law Against Discrimination through actions leading to lesser pay and fewer promotions of female employees than their male counterparts.

“The court agrees that the characteristics of the performance review system described in the second amended complaint ‘nudge’ plaintiffs’ claims – particularly the disputed element of causation – ‘across the line from conceivable to plausible,” the judge stated, as there was evidence to support worker claims on witnessing and experiencing intentional and disparate-impact discrimination under Title VII. “At a minimum, the parties have set forth multiple plausible causes of the alleged disparate impact on female technical employees at Microsoft,” he noted.

The case is Katherine Moussouris et al. v. Microsoft Corp., case number 2:15-cv-01483, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

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.