Microsoft Says It Fired 20 Workers For Sexual Harassment In 2017

Microsoft Says It Fired 20 Workers For Sexual Harassment In 2017

Microsoft says it fired about 20 workers for sexual harassment in 2017 after investigating 83 sexual harassment complaints and finding nearly half of those complaints to be valid.

Microsoft outlined the company’s response to sexual harassment complaints in an email sent to workers Thursday from Kathleen Hogan, the tech giant’s chief people officer.

The email came after newly released documents in a discrimination lawsuit against Microsoft paint a picture of a company that sided with women in fewer than 1 percent of discrimination complaints over the past few years. Three women suing Microsoft said the company failed to adequately respond to complaints or ensure the safety of employees who allege sexual harassment or assault. Microsoft is fighting the lawsuit and disputes the claims.

Hogan reiterated a message from Microsoft President Brad Smith, who recently acknowledged that the #MeToo movement has created a national reckoning and prompted the tech giant to rethink how it addresses sexual harassment cases in the workplace.

In December, Microsoft got rid of a clause in some worker contracts that required sexual harassment claims to be settled by arbitration. It was part of the tech giant’s efforts to remove secrecy and barriers to people coming forward to report abuse. Microsoft also is endorsing a bipartisan bill in the Senate that would do away with forced arbitration of sexual harassment complaints.

“We strive to create an environment where everyone is respected, safe and able to do their best work. We aspire to ensure all voices are heard, that we listen deeply and that we are fair,” Hogan said in the email. “We want people to be able to raise their concerns. We take these concerns seriously and we investigate them thoroughly. And where we find issues, we take appropriate action.”

Hogan said out of 65,000 employees in the U.S., the company had 83 sexual harassment complaints last fiscal year, covering a broad range of issues including inappropriate gender-based jokes and unwanted physical contact.

Of the 83 harassment complaints, nearly half were “found to be supported in part or in full following the investigation, and more than half of these resulted in termination of an employee who engaged in unacceptable behavior.”

The company took other disciplinary action against employees who harassed other workers, but the email did not spell out those actions.

Hogan said Microsoft also investigated 84 complaints of gender discrimination, and about 10 percent were found to be supported in part or in full. Gender bias can include inequitable work assignments, concerns about being excluded from meetings or training opportunities, as well as concerns about compensation, rewards or promotions based on gender, Hogan said.

“The most important thing to me, and to our entire leadership team, is that our employees trust and have confidence in how we address these issues and specifically how we handle complaints that are raised,” Hogan said.

“The numbers for last year paint a broadly representative picture of prior years too, especially when you adjust for things like the increase in the number of employees at the company. Reports that we rarely reach a conclusion in favor of the complainant are based on a faulty reading of a partial data set” Hogan said.

This article can be found on American City Business Journals