Microsoft faces 238 complaints of gender discrimination

The company says not enough women have been affected to warrant a class action.

Microsoft has been accused of 238 cases of gender discrimination or sexual harassment by female employees working in US-based technical jobs, according to court filings made available this week. The complaints were made between 2010 and 2016, and include systemically denying pay rises or promotions to women working at the company. The plaintiff's attorneys are pushing to proceed as a class action lawsuit, but a trial has not yet been scheduled.

Of course, Microsoft denies the claims, deeming just one of the 118 gender discrimination complaints as "founded". The company says it spends more than $55 million a year to promote diversity and inclusion, and last year waived the requirement for pre-dispute arbitration agreements in sexual harassment claims, which means that in theory, victims may be more comfortable coming forward with complaints.

However, not only would this have had no bearing on the women behind the latest case, but somewhat contradicts the company's previous stance on making complaints publicly available. Microsoft had argued that the number of women's human resources complaints should be kept under wraps because publicizing the outcomes could dissuade others from reporting future issues.

US District Judge James Robart has yet to rule on the plaintiff's request for class action status -- if allowed, it could cover more than 8,000 women. Microsoft says that the plaintiffs have not identified practices "that impact enough employees" to warrant a class action, which begs the question, how many women do have to be affected for meaningful change to take place?

[Update] A Microsoft spokesperson contacted Engadget with the following statement: "Diversity and inclusion are critically important to Microsoft. We want employees to speak up if they have concerns and we strive to make it easy for them to do so. We take all employee concerns seriously and have a fair and robust system in place to investigate employee concerns and take appropriate action when necessary."