More than a decade after several hundred Microsoft employees launched a class-action lawsuit over workplace sexual harassment - and years after the #MeToo movement first opened multiple cans of worms over harassment and discrimination allegation - the tech giant has finally hired a law firm to review its policies and practices around the handling of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
Microsoft's board of directors announced on Thursday that the company will hire Washington-based general services firm Arent Fox, which is "experienced in these matters" and has not previously represented Microsoft in employment matters. Notably, Arent Fox's website lists the successful defense of a former White House official who had been charged with sexual harassment among its recent achievements.
The review is expected to complete within this quarter of 2022, and the resulting report will be publicly released. According to the board announcement, the report will include:
- The effectiveness of the company's workplace sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies, training, and related policies
- A review of concerns raised by employees in 2019 (when a massive email chain circulated through the company containing detailed complaints by female employees about sexual harassment and discrimination they had faced)
- The results of any sexual harassment investigations during this same timeframe against members of the board of directors and the company’s senior leadership team - including founder Bill Gates
- An analysis of what Microsoft has (or has not) done to create a safe and inclusive work environment
- An assessment of what has (or has not) been done to hold employees accountable for sexual harassment and discrimination
- Data on how many sexual harassment cases have been investigated and the conclusion of the investigations
Arent Fox is also expected to provide recommendations.
The decision to carry out an external review comes less than two months after Microsoft's shareholders voted to have the board publish a report on the effectiveness of its workplace sexual harassment policies. The board of directors had been against the proposal and asked shareholders to vote it down - but clearly, the shareholders thought otherwise.