Two current Microsoft employees came forward this week to allege that they, and their female coworkers, are rising through the company’s ranks more slowly because of employee review processes that favor their male counterparts.
Holly Muenchow, an IT operations program manager from Woodinville, Wash., and Dana Piermarini, a sales specialist from Leesburg, Va., joined a lawsuit originally filed by former employee Katherine Moussouris in September. In an amended complaint filed on Wednesday, the three plaintiffs asked the courts to step in on behalf of all women who work for Microsoft.
Microsoft has not responded to the allegations in the U.S. District Court in Seattle, where the case was filed. The company did say in a statement when the original complaint was levied, “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.”
At the top of the current and former employees’ list of allegations is the stack-ranking system that the company used to administer raises and promotions until 2013. But even after the stack system was retired, the lawsuit alleges the overarching issues persist today.
Piermarini, who has worked for Microsoft since 2006, alleges that she was passed over for leadership roles, criticized for becoming “emotional” during a meeting, and missed advancement opportunities because of maternity leave.
The lawsuit claims Piermarini did report her issues to Microsoft’s human resources department, but they found no wrongdoing after an investigation.
“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 news represents an escalation in a legal battle that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. It’s all set on a backdrop of heightened focus on diversity issues across the entire technology industry.
Microsoft became a lightning rod for the issue when CEO Satya Nadella 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, but the comments placed the company right at the center of the conversation.
As that conversation makes its way into the courts, it’s turning into a legal battle that could have lasting implications for Microsoft and the broader technology industry.
Here’s a copy of the amended complaint: