A former Microsoft security program manager alleges in a newly filed lawsuit that the company’s employee review system discriminates against women in performance evaluations, compensation and promotions.
“Microsoft’s company-wide policies and practices systematically violate female technical employees’ rights and result in the unchecked gender bias that pervades its corporate culture,” the complaint reads. “The disadvantage to female technical employees in pay and promotion is not isolated or exceptional, but rather the regular and predictable result of Microsoft’s policies and practices and lack of proper accountability measures to ensure fairness.”
Microsoft said in a statement this afternoon, “We’re committed to a diverse workforce, and to a workplace where all employees have the chance to succeed. We’ve previously reviewed the plaintiff’s allegations about her specific experience and did not find anything to substantiate those claims, and we will carefully review this new complaint.”
The proposed class-action suit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle by Katherine Moussouris, who worked at Microsoft from 2007 to 2014, and is now chief policy officer at HackerOne. The suit was reported earlier today by the Puget Sound Business Journal.
Moussouris’ complaint comes amid heightened focus on diversity across the tech industry — with many companies, including Microsoft, making public pledges to try to bring more women and minorities into technical fields. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella became a lightning rod for this issue when he said last year that women should not explicitly ask for a raise, but rather rely on “good karma.” He later apologized and said he misspoke.
The suit focuses in part on Microsoft’s former stack ranking system, which was ended by the company in 2013. But the problems have persisted since then, the suit alleges.
“From 2014 to the present, Microsoft has used a similarly unvalidated, and unreliable discriminatory performance evaluation procedure that systematically undervalues female technical employees relative to their male peers, and results in lower scores than men in similar positions with no better or worse objective performance,” the suit says.
Moussouris was paid “less than her male peers throughout her tenure at the company,” the suit says. Among other allegations, the suit cites multiple instances in which Moussouris received lower ratings than her manager said she deserved, and was passed over for deserved promotions, including once when she was on maternity leave.
The suit asks the court to require Microsoft to end the alleged discriminatory practices, and institute a new system with “accurate and validated standards for evaluating performance, determining pay, and making promotion decisions,” overseen by a court-appointed monitor. It also asks the court to require Microsoft to reinstate the plaintiff and class members to their rightful positions, in addition to providing back pay and unspecified financial damages.
Here’s a copy of the full complaint, as filed with the court.