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Sexual harassment culture investigation moves forward at Microsoft

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2022 | Employment Law

In response to investor pressure, Microsoft has agreed to open an investigation into how the company handles sexual harassment and gender discrimination complaints. In a rare move, an activist investor was able to convince almost 78% of Microsoft shareholders to vote together and demand more accountability when it comes to sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

According to the Associated Press, the move was prompted in part by allegations in 2019 that founder Bill Gates had an affair for several years with a company engineer. Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft’s board had hired a law firm to consider the allegations. The board’s handling of the allegations has been criticized, and here have been other sexual harassment allegations made against board members and senior leaders. Bill Gates resigned from Microsoft’s board in 2020.

Specifically, Microsoft’s board has agreed to investigate the company’s anti-harassment policies and then release a public report. So far, the board seems to be moving forward with the commitment after initially opposing it. A second law firm has been brought in to conduct the review.

The activist investor, Massachusetts-based Arjuna Capital, told reporters that it doesn’t just want to find out the truth about past allegations but also to ensure that any bad behaviors are addressed and mitigated.

“From an investor perspective,” a spokesperson for the investment firm said, “this is about how the company is treating its employees and whether it’s able to attract and retain talent.”

Many high-tech workplaces seem to include sexual harassment

This isn’t the first time a high-tech firm has been accused of harboring a hostile work environment towards women. Companies from Google to Uber have been accused of failing to address sexual harassment complaints and “bro culture” that excludes and marginalizes women.

Until more is done, it is impossible to say whether this investigation at Microsoft will foster sustained change.

Leigh Law Group represents people throughout California who experience sexual harassment or gender discrimination at work.

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