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Microsoft looking into host of sexual harassment claims circulated among employees

Microsoft Logo at Ignite
Microsoft Logo at Ignite (Image credit: Windows Central)

Disturbing claims of sexual harassment at Microsoft, initially circulated via an email chain, are reportedly being investigated by the company. Quartz reports that it has reviewed more than 90 pages of an internal email chain from Microsoft, revealing an alarming trend of sexual harassment and discrimination claims that is now being investigated by the senior leadership team at the company (via Thurrott).

According to Quartz, the email chain began with an employee inquiring about how to move up the ranks of the company after spending six years in the same position with no promotion opportunities. From there, the chain received "dozens" of replies from women at the company alleging instances of discrimination and sexual harassment.

In one instance cited by Quartz, one Microsoft employee said someone employed by a partner company "threatened to kill her if she did not perform implied sexual acts."

"I raised immediate attention to HR and management," the employee reportedly wrote. "My male manager told me that 'it sounded like he was just flirting' and I should 'get over it'. HR basically said that since there was no evidence, and this man worked for a partner company and not Microsoft, there was nothing they could do."

Another Microsoft employee referenced being called a "bitch" multiple times, which she said wasn't an uncommon occurrence.

"We did a roundtables with the women when I was in Xbox core [team] & every woman, except for 1, had been called a bitch at work," the employee reportedly wrote. "Before people say this is just an Xbox thing (as I've heard that dismissiveness way too many times within Microsoft before) the other eng [engineering] orgs where my experiences happened were Windows & Azure. This is a Microsoft thing, a common one."

Yet another employee in the chain said that she had been asked twice in one meeting to sit on a person's lap while she was working as a "Microsoft Partner." The incident allegedly occurred "in front of HR and other executives," yet nothing was done, according to the employee.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and chief legal officer Brad Smith were included in the recipients of the email chain, according to Quartz. Microsoft's HR chief, Kathleen Hogan, responded to the thread on March 29, stating:

I discussed this thread with the [senior leadership team] today. We are appalled and sad to hear about these experiences. It is very painful to hear these stories and to know that anyone is facing such behavior at Microsoft. We must do better. I would like to offer to anyone who has had such demeaning experiences including those who felt were dismissed by management or HR to email me directly. I will personally look into the situation with my team.

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed the veracity of Hogan's response to Quartz.

This is the second time in the past year that Microsoft has faced serious allegations of sexual harassment within its organization. In March of 2018, the company was hit with a lawsuit that claimed the company didn't properly respond to 238 allegations between 2010 and 2016.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the Editor in Chief for Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl. Got a hot tip? Send it to daniel.thorp-lancaster@futurenet.com.

19 Comments
  • Good. We should never have allowed this type of behavior to be normalized or tolerated in any workplace. Now's better than never.
  • Exactly, this type of behaviour should never be normalised or tolerated ever.
  • I have a hard time feeling sorry for any of these people at these tech companies. They are overpaid and do less than half the amount of work as those of us in most other industries. When you live in crystal castles you need to be aware of the sharp edges.
  • What? I don't understand what you're implying in your comment? Are you saying people should know better and not work in tech or something like that? Tech is a well paid field, what other industries are you comparing it to? And to be clear I'm not in tech and wish I was paid even half as much as them for the work I do lol
  • Even if someone is overpaid and even if I dislike someone, I wouldn't understand condoning sexual harassment towards them.
  • What kind of dick blames the victim of sexual harassment for their treatment because they work at a tech company?
  • What has any of what you just said got to do with a person being sexually harassed?
  • You have zero idea of the work we do. You also have zero idea of what people go through who are not like yourself.
  • I have a hard time believing you are not an idiot.
  • It still breaks my heart to learn this is ongoing. We should have been beyond this point, yet we are still here.
  • Not overly surprising... Microsoft is a huge company... bound to hire more than 1 bad apple.
  • the real question is do the men give each other a bad time and curse at each other and do it to women also, or do they single out women for that kind of treatment?
  • They single out women.
  • Not all men do, Andrew G1. You need to be aware of the lingustical ramifications of the words you speak because in this context by extension it includes you and I as well as others who do not engage in this sort of toxic behaviour. Unless of course you're not a guy, in that case it wouldn't include yourself lol.
  • @Dush Ku. There is a key difference that needs to be highlighted here, not all men act in this manner. Just like not all people share the same views and opinions. It's always a toxic few that have no moral or ethical boundaries when it comes to women. Never the less toxic masculinity is unfortunately extremely pervasive due to past ingrained views that go back hundreds of years. If that wasn't the case, women would not have had to fought for the right to vote for example. Furthermore the US is sooo far behind when it comes to rules and regulations in terms of women rights and protections. Heck, the US does not have federal laws mandating maternity leave let alone have policies safeguarding their health such as cancer screenings. There are some states that can fire an person without any reason, so you take time off sick or time off to look after a loved one - you can get the sack as there is no federal law or policy mandating paid sick leave or annual leave (paid holiday leave).
  • Do not forget women can sexual harassment Men to.
  • Dush: Generally speaking, men don't go around threatening each other for sexual favors at the workplace, nor are they systemically overlooked when it comes to promotion opportunities. Your question seems based on a significant misunderstanding of the issues at hand.
  • Agreed, not all men act this way it's always a toxic few in a group that ruin it for everyone else.
  • Hopefully doesn't Turn into me until witch hunt