Similar discrimination cases brought by female engineers are pending against other big tech companies. But the Microsoft case, filed in September 2015, may be the first to become a class action.
A lawsuit accusing Microsoft of discriminating against women in technical and engineering roles is poised to grow a lot bigger if it wins class-action status.
With the technology sector awash in challenges to white male dominance, the three women spearheading the case against Microsoft told a Seattle federal judge they want to represent about 8,630 peers who have worked for the company since 2012.
The women said their expert consultants have determined that discrimination at the Redmond company cost female employees more than 500 promotions and $100 million to $238 million in pay, according to Oct. 27 court filings. They also accused the software maker of maintaining “an abusive, toxic ‘boy’s club’ atmosphere, where women are ignored, abused, or degraded.”
Microsoft said it strongly disagrees with the allegations, saying the filings “mischaracterize data and other information.”
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Similar cases brought by female engineers are pending against Twitter, Alphabet’s Google and Uber Technologies. The Microsoft case, filed in September 2015, may be the first to become a class action, with a hearing on the request for group status set for Feb. 9.
In affidavits filed with the court, current and former female employees of Microsoft cite instances of male co-workers discounting what they had to say at meetings and sexually harassing them. The alleged harassment included talking about their bodies, staring at their breasts, and organizing an Xbox party that included scantily clad women dancing on tables.
Microsoft has denied the women’s claims that men are paid better and get promoted more often. It cited an in-house study in 2016 that found that women earned 99.9 cents for every dollar earned by men.
The women call the study a “sham,” saying in a court filing that the company purposely “cooked” the numbers by including other factors in the analysis that negated the effect of the alleged gender discrimination.
Microsoft said Monday it is committed to “building a diverse and inclusive workforce where all employees have the chance to succeed.”
“While we’ve made important progress over the years including increasing diverse representation and expanding training, we are constantly learning and working to improve,” a spokeswoman said in an email.