Microsoft has hired a law firm to review sexual harassment policies, report to come this spring

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  • The review that a law firm will conduct for Microsoft’s board on the effectiveness of sexual harassment policies will compare the company’s handling of cases with other companies.
  • A report on management’s plans to improve its outlook will come in the spring.
  • Shareholders approved a proposal for a report on the subject in November.

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Microsoft’s board said Thursday it will review the software maker’s policies on sexual harassment and issue a report in the spring after shareholders in November approved a proposal for a report on the topic.

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The assessment comes after years of complaints about the Microsoft investigation into concerns raised by employees.

Law firm Errant Fox will handle the review. The board said Errant Fox, with offices in Washington and other US cities, “has not done significant work for the company in the past.” The review will compare Microsoft’s handling of harassment with those of other companies, even though Arjun Capital has said nothing in its shareholder resolution.

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Errant Fox will submit a report to the board with the recommendations, and officials will show the board a plan to act on the recommendations. The board will then issue a report to the public showing how Microsoft intends to adjust its approach to dealing with harassment.

“Our culture remains our first priority and the entire board appreciates the vital importance of a safe and inclusive environment for all Microsoft employees,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement. “We are committed to not only reviewing the report but learning from the evaluation so that we can continue to improve the experiences of our employees. I take this comprehensive review as an opportunity to improve.”

Nadella tackled the topic last May after Microsoft co-founder and original CEO Bill Gates reported having sex with an employee in 2000. Microsoft received a report on the matter, and a board committee looked into it. Gates left the board of Microsoft in 2020. Nadella said anyone can raise the issue, even if it is two decades old, and the company will take action. Microsoft’s board said on Thursday that its report would summarize the results of the investigation, which also included Gates.

The Board’s report will also consider stories of harassment and discrimination faced by women employees. a 2019 email chain and company response.

In addition to the Gates case and email, Arjun Capital in its shareholder resolution referred to a 2012 class-action lawsuit against Microsoft in which 238 employees claimed harassment. The case revealed that “Microsoft’s human resources team has consistently ignored and denied these allegations, considering only one to be established.”

And in a lawsuit that was dropped in 2020, former Microsoft employee Katie Mausoris alleged that Microsoft had developed a habit of sexual discrimination against women in technical and engineering positions.

She said in her original 2015 complaint that in 2008 she had complained about a male director who was harassing other female employees. Microsoft found this to be true but moved it to a different part of the organization and allowed it to keep its title. Moussouris said she complained when the director retaliated against her by giving her a reduced bonus, but Microsoft did nothing. He later received a promotion, he claimed.

Employees of other big technology companies Apple and Google have drawn attention to the way their employers have handled allegations of harassment. In 2020 Google settled a lawsuit with shareholders alleging that they unfairly handled abuse among executives, and the company announced a slate of new practices.

Watch: Microsoft and Google are destinations for talent, says Alliance Bernstein VP

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