Microsoft opens a third-party review into its harassment and discrimination policies

Microsoft has hired a third -party law firm to review its policies on sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies, The Verge has reported. As part of that, the final report will summarize the results of sexual harassment investigations against the company’s senior leadership and board of directors, including former CEO Bill Gates. 

The report 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,” Microsoft said in a press release. It will also “assess the steps that have been taken to hold employees, including executives, accountable for sexual harassment or gender discrimination,” and include the number of sexual harassment cases investigated and their resolution. 

[The report] 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.

Microsoft had been planning to disclose how it implements sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies, with a key request being the disclosure of executive-level investigations. However, late last year, Microsoft shareholders forced the company to write up an annual report detailing how it handles sexual harassment cases within the company. 

The review will be conducted by the law firm Arent Fox and will look at allegations of discrimination and harassment arising from an internal Microsoft email chain back in 2019. In over 90 pages of emails, female employees alleged that they were harassed and denied promotions and pay raises, among other issues. They further complained that managers and the company’s HR department took no action in many cases. Microsoft was also accused of 238 cases of gender discrimination or sexual harassment in 2018. 

While the board will assess the previous investigation against Gates, it won’t reinvestigate the affair that happened in 2000. Gates resigned from Microsoft’s board in early March of 2020, reportedly before the investigation was complete.

“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,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement. “I embrace this comprehensive review as an opportunity to continue to get better.”

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