A court filing recently revealed that there were 238 complaints around gender discrimination and sexual harassment inside Microsoft. There was also criticism that Microsoft did not take these complaints seriously and didn’t respond in a way it was expected. Microsoft’s Chief People Officer, Kathleen Hogan, yesterday sent an email to employees to address these issues. She also mentioned that some of what has been reported in the media in the past few days contains inaccurate and misleading data. Read her full email below.
From: Kathleen Hogan
Sent: Thursday, March 15, 2018 5:10 PM
To: Microsoft – All Employees
Subject: Making sure every voice is heard
Since Satya and I sent mail in December, a discussion has continued in the U.S. and around the world about the experiences of women in the workplace, and issues of both gender discrimination and sexual harassment. This discussion is not limited to any one employer, industry or country and includes Microsoft as well. This is an important discussion to have, and while it can be painful, it is only through dialogue and action that we will make progress.
One consistent topic has been how employers handle complaints, what action they take when they identify concerns, and whether employees are free to speak out on these issues.
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.
In December we took a step to ensure that anyone alleging sexual harassment will have the chance to raise their concerns in a court of law. We became the first Fortune 100 company to endorse legislation that would ensure that every person facing sexual harassment in the workplace can make their case in a public court, rather than behind closed doors in private arbitration. We also announced we were waiving the contractual requirement for arbitration of sexual harassment claims in our own arbitration agreements for the limited number of employees who have this requirement even before any legislation passes. This was just one step, and one we hope others will follow.
In recent weeks there has been some attention in the media on how Microsoft investigates complaints of gender discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace, alleging that we don’t take these issues seriously and don’t investigate complaints thoroughly. Some of what has been reported contains inaccurate and misleading data. Today, I discussed my thoughts on this topic with our executive staff (which includes the top leadership from across the company). I thought it was important to share my thoughts with you and provide additional transparency and new information that hasn’t been part of the public discussion. While the media discussion and specific data is focused on the U.S., I want to share the information with all Microsoft employees.
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. 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.
I want to share the most recent data with you. For context, we have over 65,000 employees in the U.S. Last fiscal year, we had 83 sexual harassment complaints. Sexual harassment covers a broad range of issues including amongst other things, inappropriate gender-based jokes and unwanted physical contact. Out of those 83 harassment complaints, nearly 50% 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. Depending on the severity of the case there are a range of other disciplinary actions we take.
In the same year we had 84 complaints of gender discrimination. Around 10% of those were found to be supported in part or in full, and we took appropriate action in these cases too. Gender discrimination can cover a range of issues, including whether work assignments are equitable, concerns about being excluded from meetings or training opportunities, as well as concerns about compensation, rewards or promotions based on gender.
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.
As we shared previously, we have multiple ways in which you can raise a concern. However, some of you have asked “if I raise a concern, what happens next?” I want to ensure that everyone has additional transparency on the investigations process, how it works and what you can expect. You can find more information here, but at a high level, the process is:
- HR or CELA (the Employee Relations Investigations Team/ERIT) will reach out to discuss your concern.
- Based on the nature of the concern HR or ERIT will follow up to share suggested next steps and an expected timeline.
- Depending on the issue, there will be a process to investigate the complaint as well as a plan to discuss the results.
- Employees who raise concerns are not precluded from discussing their experiences or the investigation. There is no “gag order” once a complaint is registered.
- During the course of investigations, we strive to keep employees updated on the status of the investigation, so the process doesn’t feel opaque.
- At the conclusion of the investigation there will be a final communication from HR or ERIT.
What this does not address is feedback I have heard that people feel the process can often feel formal and that it can lack empathy. Please know that Brad and I hear that, and we are committed to learning and improving.
I know this topic is incredibly difficult, emotional and stressful for everyone involved. I hope this email provides more context and transparency on what Microsoft is doing and our commitment to continuously improve as we work to build the most inclusive culture where everyone can do their best work. As always, feel free to reach out to me, HR, CELA or your leadership team with questions or suggestions.