Microsoft to revamp anti-discrimination, harassment policies after hiring a law firm for independent review

November 16, 2022

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Microsoft hired law firm ArentFox Schiff to assess its practices for misconduct and discrimination reports in the workplace. And after a series of probes, the company now plans to implement new harassment policies based on the firm’s recommendations, including leader-employee consensual relationships disclosure. The tech giant targets to execute the recommendations on June 30, 2023. Prior to that, the company will start publishing an annual transparency public report on December 1.

The service firm’s 50-page report details its findings for Microsoft’s practices regarding workplace misconduct and discrimination complaints. Aside from suggesting some recommendations that are expected to improve the company’s current policies and investigation process, the report also tackles the issues involving Microsoft leaders. Aside from the former CEO Bill Gates’ claimed “consensual” employee affair, the report mentions the case of two other executives. Though directly not named, the issue pertains to HoloLens lead developer Alex Kipman and Tech Exec Tom Keane, who became the center of Business Insider’s “untouchable” “golden boy” executives report. The two, however, already resigned from their positions before receiving proper action. ArentFox Schiff says the case “could have been addressed earlier than it was.”

“Our review of the records relating to two of the executives suggests that some employees had a perception based on some degree of evidence that the Company tolerated their inappropriate conduct,” the report reads. “Although we are unable to assess how widespread those perceptions may be, and whether they will persist after the resignations of these executives, we think it would be prudent for the Company to consider taking some actions that attempt to minimize that perception, such as making it clear in policies that the proscriptions apply to all levels of employees, up to and including the SLT.”

ArentFox Schiff report showing breakdown of complaint types in Microsoft workplace

While the cases of the three executives are one of the biggest highlights of the report, ArentFox Schiff also stressed the total number of harassment and discrimination complaints Microsoft received from 2019 to 2021. According to the report, the company received 453 cases of gender discrimination complaints, which accounted for 62.83% of the 721 cases in the workplace. Aside from them, Microsoft also received 210 sexual harassment and 58 gender-related harassment complaints during the said period.

The changes that will be introduced to the company’s policies won’t only improve the current workplace within Microsoft. It could also be a good preparation for the company as it hopes to get the necessary regulator approvals for its proposed acquisition deal with Activision, which has also been facing different complaints regarding sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and sexual battery. Recently, a Swedish state-run pension fund sued both Microsoft and Activision, claiming the deal was made to protect the latter’s CEO, Bobby Kotick, from scandal consequences. According to the suit, Kotick pushed the “hastily negotiated” agreement, and Microsoft took advantage of Activision’s “weak and wounded” situation, leading to the $69 billion “bargain price” deal.

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