microsoftlogo1-1024x680A longtime Microsoft employee has sued the company, alleging that she was subjected to race, gender and age discrimination in her role as a software test manager in the Microsoft Azure cloud computing division.

The suit by employee Nancy Williams was first reported by the Seattle Times. It alleges that Williams’ manager gave preferential treatment to male colleagues while dismissing Williams’ suggestions, excluding her from internal suggestions, and blaming her for situations that weren’t her responsibility.

The suit, filed in King County Superior Court, alleges that Williams’ supervisor stood over her and made her repeat the words, “You are my manager, I will do as you say.”

Williams, 53, is Hispanic. The suit says that the Azure unit includes a large number of male engineers of East Indian descent, including Williams’ former boss and his supervisor. At one point, the suit says, Williams questioned them over their awarding of a contract to an Indian company.

In a statement, the company says, “Microsoft provides an environment where all employees have the opportunity to be successful. We take these claims seriously and will address them with the Court.”

In addition to financial damages, Williams is asking for an audit of Microsoft’s HR practices, and training for Azure employees on issues including discrimination and retaliation.


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  • BeenThere

    The old division that contained Azure in the past was always notoriously tough on anyone over 50 and women. I’m not surprised

    • Indians@MS Bringing MS Down

      I have heard many Indian employees and managers (at both Redmond and India) brag about how they don’t do any work. They hire the contractors to do it for them. And if a project goes to hell, they just laugh about it and say that means the project has been extended for 5 more years. If the whole point to hiring East Indians is because they are supposed to be hard working and competent, then why is this attitude so prevalent?

  • OverDue

    Thank Heavens for older women of hispanic origin, so someone has a leg to stand on when taking on the discriminatory culture and nepotism by the east Indian faction at Microsoft.

    • balls187

      East Indians are the worst.

      THE WORST.

      • Alan Balasundaram

        Haa haa Alan – that’s so Clayton Bigsby

        • balls187


      • BallBuster

        Fuck you asshole.

  • NotSurprised

    Based on their statement, MS will use their $ to sweep this under the carpet. No way Nadella is going to admit to the problem and address it with transparency.

  • Guest

    I worked with Nancy about 9 years ago on Forefront. She was good and I feel bad for what must have happened to bring her to this.

  • Guest

    I’ve been wondering when something like this was going to happen. But now that Satya is CEO I doubt it will be seriously addressed.

  • Guest

    I’ve been wondering when something like this was going to happen. Good for Nancy for having the courage to speak up.

  • OldDog

    Age discrimination is rampant at Microsoft. Look at the layoffs since 2009: most people let go are over 40 and over 10 years at MSFT.

    Sexism is even more prevalent and blatant.

    Watch: the thing Microsoft is most scared of is the audit of its HR practices. Smart to put that into the demands: guarantees that MSFT will settle this quickly and be willing to pay whatever it takes for this to go away.

    Shame. A true audit would blow the lid off the worsening situation. I marvel that no one has dug into this.

  • Alan

    None of us know the merits of her case, but who wants an employee questioning them over their choice of vendor, and if she was willing to tell the manager how to run his department, what else did she feel qualified to educate him on? I’m sure there is a proper way to report issues such as this. Doing so to your direct manager is more likely an act of hostility.

    • balls187

      So, questioning a decision equates to telling a manager how to run the department?

      Okay chief.

    • truly

      Yes, it is far better to be an indentured yes-man Indian slave who will never question or cause waves.

      By the way, when the vendor is not performing and it’s part of your job to monitor that, questioning the vendor choice with your manager is part of doing your job and being loyal to the company. Keeping poor performance under the rug and never questioning is a sign of not giving a shit, or being an H1-B afraid to lose his visa tied to the company for questioning, or considering your salary hush money.

  • Guest

    This will get settled quickly.

  • truly

    In many cases, when an Indian company is up for a contract, and there are Indians at Microsoft in the decision process, all of a sudden, companies with diverse employment are shut out. No one at Microsoft deals with this cronyism. If you question the performance of said Indian company on their contract, with straightforward comparison data, suddenly YOU are the one who is in trouble. Microsoft customers ought to know that Microsoft consulting and cloud are going down the tube path of old IBM with preferred Indian support and development people tight in the cronyism and protecting those people rather than providing a great product and excellent service. They are in an echo chamber of yes men who don’t want to work that hard and surround themselves with like that will not question and will hire on connection rather than talent.

    And all of the cloud areas and architecture at Microsoft have the NO GIRLZ sign on the door if you want to be a lead or principal or manager.

    • jhwang

      I used to work for a company owned by an East Indian owner. It never used any East Indian contract company. Most important managing positions in the company is held by East Indians but everyone in key technical positions is not.

  • Curious

    I’m wondering what kind of data is publicly available via the WARN Act on the last few year’s of lay-offs. While I suspect a few younger employees have been included in each “decision group” – set of people whose criteria is examined – I’m wondering if a deep analysis would show any trends in age, salary (against compa range), gender, health care costs/numbers of dependents, service lengths, etc.

  • Sterculius

    Indians openly discriminate against non-Indians all the time, and this is something I have experienced firsthand. Now they have made Microsoft basically an Indian company, which explains the quality of Microsoft products. The easy choice is not to work for Microsoft, and laugh as they keep bouncing down the hill to utter irrelevance.

    • h1bvisafraud

      Totally agree. The nepotism among the Indian H1B visa holders is insane. They blatantly hire their friends and contract with other interests with Indian ties.

      In a previous role I was often asked to manipulate job postings so H1B visa fraud could happen. This was not MS but we were staffed by former H1B visa holders from Microsoft. Within a year all our non-India programmers were squeezed out for their Indian friends. I’ve never seen anything so blatant in my life.

      • Garb3000

        The vast majority of Microsoft employees are caucasians.

        Here are the numbers:

        61% are Caucasians and 28.8% are Asians, and out of these many Asians are American Citizens or Permanent Residents and less than half of them are on H1B Visa.

        The number of H1-Bs hired by Microsoft is pretty insignificant, compared to the total number of CaucasiansAmerican citizens.

        • guest

          You don’t post the number of contractors and H1-B’s and other foreign visa workers which many estimate to be at least a third of all employees at the headquarters if not more where development and design work is largely done. And apparently, there are a lot of applicants to contracting work from US people, but somehow, they don’t get hired. The number of H1-Bs hired by Microsoft you call “insignificant” but you don’t post the numbers at all. And for some reason, Microsoft keeps going before congress and asking to up the number of foreign visa workers.

        • WSSNW

          Microsoft has 40,000 contractors. The majority of which are H1-B’s in the US and people actually located in India. They are not counted in the employees numbers. Contractors are in the marketing budget. Look at the total number of H1-B granted by congress to Microsoft. Look at the yearly totals and the expiration dates and you will see well north of that number that are here.

    • Guest

      Discrimination for non-Indians is blatantly practiced in Microsoft. I recall when my manager thought I was 100% Indian and I had plans to move to UK. He told me not to worry and that he would write a favorable review so I could get into the Cambridge office. As soon as he found I was only partially indian and something else, tables turned pretty fast. Next thing I know, my performance is being reviewed and I have to include him in all my emails….he destroyed every confidence I had and made sure I gave him my H1B document. More than 75% of the devs and test folks I worked with found it fishy….plus I was the second female he let go that was not indian.

      Good luck to her in getting attention on this but we all know it will all get shoved under the rug. These South Indians are very good and work with HR to make sure that they are within guidelines. One thing every one talks about in MS but we all know that we would be a laughing disgrace if we talk to HR is that there is huge racism and favoritism with South Indians. If you are being interviewed for a team and your manager is South Indian with some Indian team members reporting to him directly, don’t bother to get the job. Get out! They will get the best projects, treatment and reviews and you will struggle your way to get out to another team to avoid getting laid off.

  • Patrick Husting

    Microsoft will have a hard time defending this practice, it has been going on for years.

    • WSSNW

      Thats why I think they will have an easy time defending it. They are well polished in their defense.

  • Gill Bates

    As a former 16yr MS employee this is the way things work at MS. When you cross the 40yr mark and/or 10yr anniversary you are pushed to the extremes. Lots of divorce, depression, and even suicide. Work life/balance is an internal webpage only. Any pushback and your put on a PIP-Productivity Improvement Plan. Essentially your career at MS is toast, there is no recovery. Even when your manager FuX you, you can’t even interview around the company, its the Scarlet Letter, and slow death follows… Just look at the MS Alumni, its the 40+ club. I couldn’t find a lawyer in Seattle to touch my case, I had all my paperwork and a case, but the legal cost of discovery was too high, and I could not afford it.

    I would gladly contribute $$$ to a kickstarter campaign to help this woman’s case and get the data to show the scale of abuse and age discrimination.

    • Jobs4US

      I agree, for the same reasons would contribute to a kick starter fund tO contribute to Nancy’s legal expenses.

      • Slaggggg

        OK guys do it, don’t just talk about it. Anyone can make a kickstarter campaign — go ahead and nut up and do it.

    • ExMSFThere

      Just as a guess, the woman has a strong enough case that the attorney is willing to take it on contingency due to the potential size of the verdict. That was my situation.

    • ExMSFThere

      Oh, and I will also add that despite all the allegations and smears against my reputation that were made against me by my manager, for some reason, they never put me on a PIP. This is likely because it was known by all parties that I’d either blow away the objectives in the PIP by a country mile, and reveal it for the joke that it was, or it would just give me a written document to use against them in court for its ludicrous nature. At one point, I tried to call their “you’re a underperformer” bluff and suggested that they put me on a PIP as they had done with another employee on the team who was an actual underperformer, and they refused! (Seriously. My point was, just give me some objectives and watch me meet them. They appeared to be afraid to give me the chance.)

      Part of their excuse justifying heaping overwork on me was, “As a senior employee, you should be capable of doing more work than an entry level employee.” In the exact circumstances of specific tasks involved here, this comment was like telling a mother of 3, “As someone experienced at pushing out babies, we expect you do be able to do 2 in 9 months. 1 is an acceptable target only for those with less experience.” Some things just take a certain amount of time no matter who does them or how much they’re being paid to do them.

  • CurrentEmployee

    I am a woman and I am white. I work with many people from all over the world, a number of whom are from India, both male and female. I have never witnessed discrimination as described in the comments to this article. I have witnessed people being promoted based on merit, more so than any other company at which I have been employed. It is one of the reasons why I respect Microsoft so much. What I see are people that are hired because they are good at what they do, and not because of where they came from or how they look. I work with highly skilled, brilliant people, and some of them have body piercings and tattoos. A number of them are brown, from light to dark, short names and long. Muslim, Hindi, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist and Atheist. Pony tails and flip-flops. British, American, Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese, Cambodian, Canadian, Finnish, Brazilian & Indian, and we all work together very well. Explain to me how Microsoft discriminates based on age, when I have personally witnessed them hire a man over 60 years old? You want to know why they hired him? Because he is very good at what he does. I have never witnessed discrimination at Microsoft.

    • Nick Smith

      I would say you are fortunate and have probably not been in the dev or test organization. If you have my guess is that you’ve had fair and just managers but that’s not always the case. While it is not in every team of the company it does exist.

    • Sterculius

      Funny how your story is different from everyone else’s posting here. I’m sure your Indian supervisor stood over your shoulder nodding approvingly while you wrote your post … or is it that you are just one of the H1-B visa workers yourself posing as a white woman. Either way, didn’t work.

    • ExMSFThere

      Except for the ONE scenario in which I was targeted, which unfortunately ended my career at Microsoft, I also experienced a culture that was largely gender, race and age-blind. (Not completely, though. For example, when an acronym had a technical meaning and a non-technical meaning, men working with this acronym in its technical sense, with no information about me other than my looks, assumed at least once I meant the non-technical meaning when I said something about it to them. But pretty close.)

      Those of us who are highlighting discriminatory and harassing practices there are not saying the whole company is behaving improperly. Just that in a large company, inevitably some bad apples get in, and some people turn into bad apples along the way when power gets to them or they realize they can’t compete on skill and talent so they have to find other tools to use to maintain and further their careers. It’s these people that cause the problems, and it’s these people Microsoft doesn’t do a good enough job of neutralizing and/or getting rid of before they harm others.

      The company is so risk-averse with respect to taking action against the perpetrators, that the victims have to be the ones taking action against Microsoft, unfortunately after the fact when all they can get is a payout, rather than a repaired career at the company.

    • WSSNW

      It narcissistic to think your personal experience is the norm. So you don’t think its possible for the discrimination you described to go on? Well let me tell you that I have also expired the utopia you described at Microsoft and I have also experienced the extremely blatant racism many have described here. I was actually shocked that couldn’t couldn’t believe it was the same company. I have worked in many groups at MS over the years and whenever land in one of the utopian groups I just count my blessings and realize that this is not how the entire company operates. Most of the company is somewhere in the middle, but the extremes are their and bad side is pretty freaking bad.

  • Ahmed

    Nothing new, in Microsoft Gulf people are threaded all the time, and they have a dozen of open cases of discrimination, harassment, aggression and non-compliance. I know a recent case where a guy tried to open a harassment case internally with HR as he was threatened by his manager and under violent scenes day after the other and also the manager was forcing his team to do things not-compliant all the time on his benefit.

    At the end nothing happened to the manager as the HR protected him (they protect each other in that company as there is a Arabic mafia and if you are a foreigner you don’t have the same treatment) and they dismissed the employee saying that his performance was low. The guy was an overachiever and got the best ratings in the team, but apparently or you are submissive to everything the manager says or you are out of the team.

    I hope the guy went to the court and stopped what is happening in Microsoft as there is no business anymore, it’s a mafia.

    Shitty culture.

  • Jobs4US

    Bravo Nancy!


    I admire this woman for taking on this issue – not everyone is in a position to take on the legal and emotional burden. If people have been recently laid off, and have concerns about their severance or the overall process, they may want to check their severance docs for references to ERISA. If the severance falls under this act, they might want to talk to a legal expert about any additional options – ie inquiries/hearings – that are possible.

  • ExMSFThere

    Good for her. I especially like the stated desire for an audit into Microsoft HR’s practices. Don’t confine it to Azure, though! It is a systemic issue at least in several technical areas of the company

    From mid-2007 to 2009, after a management change, I also experienced discrimination and prolonged harassment at Microsoft. I had represented my team internationally, been told by an exec that they couldn’t have met a very major deadline without my hard and smart work on the project, and received several gold star awards in less than 3 years. Then, after the management change, the new manager suddenly stripped me of all higher level and visible duties, and overloaded with entry level work that my manager could force me to fail at, by sheer volume of work assigned.

    Those considering taking a similar issue to Microsoft HR, might benefit from eading about my experiences and the tactics HR used to protect the manager at my expense, so that you can work around them more effectively than I could. The above employee’s story seems similar to mine, with the exception that I think once the official investigation of my situation began, after nearly a year of delay from my first report, it lasted for AT LEAST FIVE MONTHS. Running the clock appears to be a standard tactic.

    When I notified Microsoft HR that this manager with a history of harassing competent employees out of the company was doing it again, and had targeted me, they denied that manager had a history of it and told me that the problem was ME. It took nearly a full year for me to find another victim of this manager wlling to be named to HR, so that they knew that I COULD prove (e.g., in court) my statement that the manager was a known problem. Once I did that, HR sprang into molasses-like action. Unfortunately, as many in Microsoft know, a year is enough time for a manager to backstab you to pieces, destroy you in reviews and otherwise set you up to fail, ending your career. I tried to leave that team to go to another that wanted me, but even before the mid-year review calling me an underperformer came out, the manager somehow inexplicably got away with refusing me permission to change teams based on her contention that I was underperforming. The molasses-like pace of the HR investigation only further allowed that manager to undermine my future with that company. They stalled past mid-year and annual reviews. I was “10%-ed” as having no future at the company less than 2 years after receiving a stock award equivalent to my annual salary that indicated I was one of the highest-potential employees in that area of the company.

    In retrospect, if an investigation of a situation that may be affecting the health or career of an employee takes more than a couple months, HR should have a policy of temporarily moving that employee away from the reporting structure that is the alleged problem. That would minimize harm to the employee’s health and career when HR cannot reach a conclusion on a timely basis. This is particularly relevant when there is a long delay between the employee’s first report of the problem and the commencement of the HR investigation. I hope that any revisions to Microsoft HR policy as a result of the above legal action would include a provision for that.

    When HR finally gave me the results of their investigation, one of my complaints, that of that manager retaliating against me for talking to management and HR about that manager’s discriminatory and harassing treatment of me, was omitted from their formal reply to me despite being an element in my original HR complaint. They did however flat-out deny the other claims. I did not realize this interesting omission until reviewing the documents years later, after I’d caught up on my sleep and had sufficiently de-stressed from the harassment I’d been experiencing, and I do not know if my attorney had caught it.

    Additionally, coincidentally at the time those results were given to me, all non-managerial reports were removed from the manager, under the ostensible guise of giving that manager a more sustainable workload. It could, of course, also be seen as an action Microsoft took so that they could later claim, “We took the following corrective action regarding that manager to address it” should there be a legal complaint that they failed to act. Unfortunately, they assigned me to a newbie manager with less than 5 years in the tech industry, who reported directly to the problem manager, so this individual would be of no help to me in standing up to, or counteracting, the mistreatment of me.

    The original HR rep who refused to take my complaint seriously moved to a back-office role, leaving her HR generalist position. I don’t know whether she did this on her own, or whether Microsoft arranged for it. Again, this could be seen as something Microsoft could cite to demonstrate that that HR employee is no longer in a position to damage other employees in that way.

    As a result of difficulty I had getting Microsoft HR to investigate the situation, and then getting them to resolve it in a timely manner, I ended up with many months’ more mistreatment than I should have been subject to, and was ultimately laid off when the all-too-convenient GFC purge came in.

    I deliberately did not accept the pitiful severance agreement, because I wanted to preserve the freedom to speak out against practices that allowed the egregious harm to me, to happen. And to preserve the right to sue. Unfortunately, due to being single and having spent years of 70+ hour weeks at Microsoft, my entire support network was inside the company and therefore didn’t count because I couldn’t involve them in this. My attorney and I concluded
    that after what I had been through, I probably did not have the emotional strength/health to stand up, alone, to the hardball tactics they’d use in court, without further damaging my health. However, he said it was great case on any number of fronts that he otherwise would like to pursue. I combed ex’s and looked for distant family members who might be willing to be that support for me, but couldn’t come up with anyone willing to commit for the long haul.

    If anyone from Microsoft who believed the untruths about me that that manager told is reading this, I’d just like to let you know, I really was not the problem. I loved that project, that role and my team, and I did, and would have continued to do, whatever it took, to ensure that our mission succeeded. I put up with all manner of humiliation from that manager because I so wanted to keep my job there. Not because I couldn’t get work anywhere else, but because that mission-critical project was the perfect match for my skills and interests. A person doesn’t pull years of all-nighters and sleep under their desk, and joke with their officemate at 3:30am about our hands being so cramped that we have to call it a night because we can no longer type, and then just blow their team off and become an underperformer. The mere contention that I did anything of the sort is beyond offensive and should reflect more poorly on the professional ethics and qualifications of the person with the audacity to claim that, than it should on me. I’ve been at the top of my new team at another tech firm for years now. I contribute to a wonderfully collaborative team with a manager who appreciates my results, just as I did under the other managers I had on that team at Microsoft.

  • Chris

    Nancy Williams is one brave woman. There are tons of them at Microsoft. Don’t look far, just review women who left Microsoft quietly, women who went to HR and then what happened to them. I personally know 3, all from the same team, who suffered from severe retaliations from their Test Manager. One left for Google, two internally at MS and also a minority man who left for Intel. The problem is not unfortunately a few ill intended Test Managers (although the TM in this case was quite an evil). Their HR, Directors know what they do and keep quiet. You either need to keep quiet and don’t piss your manager knowingly or unknowingly or will get retaliated. You go to HR, and now you’ll get retaliated not by from your manager and his mob but also by your HR and director. Forget about the pretty diversity picture MS draws.

    And if any of you reading this is facing such a situation, don’t lose your years trying to fight this. There is life outside of MS. It is beautiful. Quitting will not make you a loser as it seems when you look from inside.

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