Microsoft to Update Harassment Policy After damning Report


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Microsoft has decided to update its harassment policy after an independent report found that its handling of employee complaints was insufficient and problematic, The Verge reported Monday. New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella asked the Board of Directors to examine the company’s harassment policy in February after former employee Kari Lakeman alleged that she was sexually harassed by her manager but her complaints were ignored. The company’s report revealed many gaps in how it handled complaints; employees will now undergo anti-harassment training and the company will pay $10,000 towards legal costs incurred by employees who report sexual harassment claims.

Following a third-party investigation that revealed flaws in the way the firm handles complaints, Microsoft announced on Tuesday that it will alter its rules on sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

The assessment of workplace sexual harassment practises is included in the report, which was requested by Microsoft shareholders a year after they approved a motion to that effect. The hiring of the law firm ArentFox Schiff LLP to review policies, provide a report, and offer recommendations was approved by the board in January.

On Tuesday, Microsoft released a 50-page transparency report from ArentFox. The study is important in a sector that is actively working to increase diversity and ensuring that sexual misbehaviour is treated severely. At Microsoft, allegations of harassment and discrimination sparked internal debates that became public.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stated in a company blog post that “the board of directors and our senior leaders are fully committed to this implementation plan as we continually work to close the gap between our espoused culture and the lived experience of our employees.”

Arjuna Capital presented the shareholder proposal last year. It came after a revelation that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates had resigned from the board of directors following an investigation into a claim that Gates had attempted to develop a relationship with a worker twenty years earlier.

Such initiatives frequently fail, thus the corporation had advised shareholders to vote against it. But, according to a regulatory filing, it garnered 77.97% of all votes.

The Gates incident was mentioned in the report on Tuesday and some specifics were given. Executive vice president and the organization’s head of human resources is Kathleen Hogan.

The transparency report stated that “On July 7, 2019, Person A, a Microsoft employee, reported to Kathleen Hogan that Bill Gates had engaged in improper contacts and actions with her.” Person A alluded to sexual harassment and the “me too” movement in doing so.

The lady initially met Gates in 1999, and they continued to meet in person “intermittently” after that, according to the article. The business contacted a law firm to investigate the woman’s claims, and it was discovered that they had in fact interacted. Microsoft President Brad Smith spoke with Bill Gates about the allegations, and Gates responded that the partnership had been mutually beneficial.

In a response, Arjuna Capital said that the study didn’t provide any fresh information regarding the Gates inquiry because to privacy concerns. However, it noted the important adjustments Microsoft has promised to undertake regarding the accountability of executives.

Microsoft announced in a blog post on Tuesday that it would amend its policy against harassment and discrimination to include language suggested in the report, improve executive training, reevaluate the conditions of substantiated policy violations, and look for solutions to the issue of complaints having a negative career impact.

Between 2019 and 2021, Microsoft received 721 employee complaints of harassment and discrimination in the United States. According to the study, investigators discovered that the majority of the claims were unfounded.

The legal company conducted interviews with some of the complainants from 2021 and discovered that many of them were concerned that their acts or becoming a subject of an inquiry may harm their career prospects, even if the charges were true. Some of these individuals claimed that their pay raises or promotions had been put off because their alleged harassment or discrimination had a negative impact on their performance reviews. They expressed dissatisfaction that human resources had informed them there was no way to address this type of impact.

Some of the persons the law firm questioned expressed dissatisfaction with investigators’ conclusions that their complaints were unfounded and not serious enough to violate Microsoft’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies.

Microsoft announced that it would provide information on harassment reports, the proportion of substantiated claims, and the company’s responses each year.


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