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Microsoft releases outside report on harassment and discrimination, pledges reforms

Microsoft released a 50-page report from an outside law firm that was commissioned to review its sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies and practices after a successful shareholder resolution on the topic last year.

The report by law firm ArentFox Schiff makes a series of recommendations to revise the company’s policies and approaches, improve transparency and opportunities for feedback, and address what the firm described as “perceptions” inside the company that senior leaders are not held accountable.

Microsoft pledged a series of steps in response to the report, including a plan to publish an annual report on its sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies that will include the “total number of reported sexual harassment concerns, percentage of those substantiated, and types of corrective actions taken.”

In the meantime, the ArentFox report summarizes Microsoft’s internal data on sexual harassment and gender discrimination complaints from 2019 through 2021, which totaled 721 over the three-year period.

Microsoft’s investigations found that 19% of the complaints during that timeframe were based on substantiated policy violations, another 4.5% were based on founded concerns, and 62% were determined to be unsubstantiated, according to the report.

Other details include a breakdown of the complaints by business group during the same time period. The largest number were in engineering (40%) and sales (25%).

The ArentFox report also recaps Microsoft’s investigation into allegations made against its co-founder Bill Gates by a former employee, without new details.

Here is the @BillGates section in the newly released @arentfox report commissioned by @microsoft on its discrimination + harassment cases and policies. More here:

In addition, the report summarizes ArentFox’s review of a May 2022 Business Insider story about several senior Microsoft executives, some of whom have since left.

“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 says, recommending that Microsoft “consider taking some actions that attempt to minimize that perception.”

Microsoft said in its implementation plan that it will make changes internally “to emphasize that senior leaders will continue to be held accountable for substantiated policy violations and behavioral concerns.”

The shareholder proposal was submitted by Arjuna Capital, whose managing partner, Natasha Lamb, said in a news release Tuesday that the report and implementation plan “provide a leading example for companies to follow.”

However, Arjuna notes that the report “only briefly touches on the Bill Gates investigation, offering little to no new information and citing privacy concerns for this lack of transparency.” The firm’s proposal, which won 78% of the shareholder vote, had called for the release of the “results of any independent investigation into executive level allegations,” including those against Gates.

Read the full ArentFox report, and Microsoft’s implementation plan.

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