Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
HR-Employee Workplace Tensions

Microsoft Gender Case Highlights HR-Employee Workplace Tensions

As the #metoo movement gains ground amidst what seems like weekly if not daily announcements of new offenses and improper conduct by high-ranked officials and executives at companies across the country, Fortune begins a canvass of the field and the rampant challenges workers face in attempting to hold companies accountable for discrimination, toxic cultures, and individual manager and co-worker offenses by focusing on the issues facing one noteworthy tech giant: “Microsoft has a woman problem….”

Citing Lieff Cabraser’s ongoing lawsuit against Microsoft over widespread allegations of gender discrimination (“The suit contends Microsoft cheated the plaintiffs represented—roughly 8,630 women engineers and IT specialists—out of 518 promotions and between $100 million and $238 million in pay between 2011 and 2016”) the article observes that part of the problem may well derive from the disconnect between employees and company HR departments. As employees often describe human resources personnel that hinder rather than help with their concerns, some of that disconnect can be argued to derive from a misunderstanding of just who HR is there to serve. As Fortune notes, it is ultimately the company and not the individual employees. “Employee relations is really about limiting the liability of the employer,” one commentator observes.

And that tension is not eased by a general shortfall in increases in HR infrastructure. “The broader economic scaffolding that has supported workers in the past has continued to fall away. The percentage of U.S. workers represented by unions stands at 11.9%, down from 23.3% in 1983. Meanwhile, more and more companies—54% of non-unionized private sector workplaces, up from 2% in 1992—are forcing employees into mandatory arbitration agreements, a contractual arrangement that prohibits employees from filing suit in public court. (While arbitration is typically speedier and cheaper than litigation, the setup has also been found to disadvantage employees.)”

The article also notes data from a recent survey indicating that only one in four workers has faith in their employer to quickly and effectively resolve a workplace issue. Unfortunately, this skepticism further disincentivizes some employees from seeking aid from within their companies.

The full article is available on line at Fortune.com.

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.

Plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification on October 27, 2017. The motion seeks certification of a class of female employees who worked in the Engineering or I/T Operations Professions and in stock levels 59-67 from September 16, 2012 to the present.

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.

Detailed information on the case is available at microsoftgendercase.com.

Battling Gender Discrimination in the Workplace

Lieff Cabraser has a strong tradition of fighting for employee rights across America. Our current work includes gender discrimination cases against Google, Microsoft, Sandia National Labs and Goldman Sachs. These employment law class action cases challenge discrimination based on employees’ race, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, or disability; wage violations, including failure to pay overtime, break time, or vacation time; and misuse of employees’ retirement benefits. We also represent employees who “blow the whistle” on wrongdoing by their employers as well as in other cases alleging violations of the law.