Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
Labor and Civil Rights Groups Urge Appellate Court to Revive Microsoft Gender Discrimination Class Action

Labor and Civil Rights Groups Urge Appellate Court to Revive Microsoft Gender Discrimination Class Action

A coalition of 32 labor and civil rights groups has filed an amicus brief urging the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to restore class action status to the gender discrimination lawsuit brought by female employees of tech giant Microsoft. The group includes the Impact Fund, the National Employment Law Project, the National Women’s Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

The plaintiffs seek class status for more than 8,000 current and former Microsoft Corp. female employees contesting discriminatory workplace disparities. The amicus brief was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of plaintiffs who are challenging a Seattle federal judge’s refusing to certify the class of female Microsoft engineers and IT operations professionals.

The class action complaint accuses Microsoft of engaging in a pattern and practice of gender discrimination against its female technical professionals. The complaint charges that, among other things, Microsoft compensates its female technical professionals less than similar men, disproportionately promotes men over equally or more qualified women, and evaluates female technical professionals less favorably compared to male peers.

“Women may be reluctant to accuse their managers of sexism where the biased judgments that have inhibited their advancement are subtle or undocumented. This reticence will be particularly acute in industries, like tech, where women have traditionally underrepresented,” noted Jocelyn Larkin of the nonprofit Impact Fund.

“Class actions allow women to challenge systemic gender discrimination without suing their employer individually and thereby putting their careers and workplace relationships in jeopardy,” the amicus brief argues. “This court should ensure that the requirements for bringing such cases are not set arbitrarily and unrealistically high, undermining their important purpose.”

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 sought 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. On June 25, 2018, the District Court denied Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification, leading to the current appeal.

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.