A gender discrimination lawsuit against Microsoft could see new light as court agrees to reconsider class action status for 8,600 current and former employees (MSFT)

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

  • A gender discrimination lawsuit first filed against Microsoft in 2015 could get new life.
  • The Ninth Circuit court of appeals on Thursday said it will reconsider a lower court ruling denying the case class action status. The plaintiffs had sought to form a class representing more than 8,600 current and former Microsoft employees. 
  • The lawsuit, filed on behalf of three women who used to work at Microsoft, alleges that the $876 billion tech company systemically discriminated against female engineers and IT employees.

A gender discrimination lawsuit against Microsoft first filed in 2015 could see new light following an appeals court’s decision on Thursday to reconsider a lower court ruling denying class action status.

The lawsuit, Moussouris v. Microsoft Corporation, alleges that Microsoft’s “company-wide policies and practices systematically violate female technical employees’ rights and result in the unchecked gender bias that pervades its corporate culture.”

Three former Microsoft employees Katherine Moussouris, Holly Muenchow and Dana Piermarini are named as plaintiffs in the case, first filed in September 2015. In their case, the plaintiffs describe a corporate culture in which gender bias went unchecked, and in which the human resources department was of little recourse. 

The discovery process revealed that Microsoft’s internal complaint investigation team only substantiated one out of 120 gender discrimination complaints made by female technical employees between 2010 to 2016, according to a statement issued by the plaintiffs’ team. 

The plaintiffs were denied class action status on June 25, by a district court in the state of Washington. Judge James Robart issued a 68-page denial, which ultimately argued that the plaintiffs failed to make their case that the women’s experiences affected an entire class of people. 

If the Ninth Circuit overturns the lower court ruling and grants class certification, it would represent a significant victory for the plaintiffs and expose the software company to potentially hefty financial penalties should it lose at trial. The plaintiffs are seeking to certify a class of more than 8,600 women in various Microsoft offices across the US and seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

Microsoft said in a statement that “we continue to believe that the judge made the right decision in denying class certification. There is no bias in Microsoft’s pay and promotion practices. We remain committed to increasing diversity and making sure that Microsoft continues to be a workplace where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.”

The plaintiffs still technically must file an appeal with the Ninth Circuit court. Microsoft has until January 31, 2019 to file its opposition. However, a lawyer for the plaintiffs said that this schedule could change due to the holidays.

SEE ALSO: Microsoft just hired a chief diversity officer — and IBM is suing over it

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