The lawsuit in question, Moussouris v. Microsoft Corporation, was originally filed by three current and former female employees in Seattle federal court in 2015. However, the case is making news now as the plaintiffs pursue a class action lawsuit that could cover over 8,000 women. The push also makes more details of the case public.
According to Reuters, there were 238 internal complaints of sexual harassment and gender discrimination filed over 6 years by women in engineering and IT roles. The claims allege that bias and unreliable peer comparisons in the promotion and pay process, also known as the Calibration Process, cost women over 500 promotions and millions of dollars in pay. In the court filings, Microsoft says the claims do not warrant a class action lawsuit.
In response to a request for inquiry, a Microsoft spokesperson issued the following statement:
"Diversity and inclusion are critically important to Microsoft. We want employees to speak up if they have concerns and we strive to make it easy for them to do so. We take all employee concerns seriously and have a fair and robust system in place to investigate employee concerns and take appropriate action when necessary.”
The lawsuit, however, alleges that Microsoft knew about the "adverse impact" its promotion process had on women, but did not address it, choosing instead to publish "two misleading 'pay equity studies'" and create gender diversity programs as "window dressing." There is mention of the "boy's club atmosphere," a problematic and oft-cited dynamic within the tech community. (The topic was the basis of Emily Chang's recent book, Brotopia: Breaking Up The Boys' Club of Silicon Valley.)
The case also references a 2014 interview between Harvey Mudd College’s Maria Klawe and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference. Nadella came under fire for his remarks about how women should ask for raises, saying, "It's not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along."
Nadella later sent an email to employees, where he corrected his statement: "I believe men and women should get equal pay for equal work. And when it comes to career advice on getting a raise when you think it’s deserved, Maria’s advice was the right advice. If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask."
The company has continued to deal with gender issues publicly. In 2016, Microsoft came under fire for a party at the Game Developers Conference, where scantily clad women were hired to dance on platforms. Both male and female employees, including Microsoft's GM of games marketing, Aaron Greenberg, expressed concern regarding the event on Twitter.
This piece was updated at 12:30 p.m. on March 13, 2018 to include a statement from Microsoft.