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

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl