Microsoft - Discrimination at the Workplace

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Case Details:

Case Code : HROB011
Case Length : 11 Pages
Period : 1997 - 2001
Pub Date : 2001
Teaching Note : Availabl0e
Organization : Microsoft Corporation
Industry : Information Technology
Countries : USA

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About Racial/Gender Discrimination & Sexual Harassment

Racial and gender discrimination may be described as any verbal or physical act which is intended to cause or could reasonably be expected to cause individuals or groups to feel intimidated, demeaned, or abused because of their racial, ethnic, gender or national background.

Sexual Harassment may be explained as an illegal form of gender discrimination, which is void under Title VII of the United States' Civil Rights Act of 1964. The state and federal laws of the United States prohibit specific kinds of discrimination.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that "managers can't hire, fire, pass over for promotion, deny a vacation request, do anything surrounding the terms and conditions of employment because of someone's protected characteristics. This means you can't make decisions or take employment actions because of an employee's race, color, gender, religion, or national origin."...

The Charges Against Microsoft

Instances of gender/racial discrimination and sexual harassment were common in Microsoft since the 1980s. The company was even said to be the 'most disdainful place for women to work' during the 1980s. In its initial years, Microsoft had only a few hundred employees, most of them male. The only women employed in Microsoft were those who edited technical manuals. The work culture in the company was by and large undisciplined. According to analysts, all the manners, attributes and traits that were not acceptable in conventional society were highly prevalent in the company.

According to a report, "Microsoft was a geeks paradise, where issues such as interpersonal skills and personal hygiene had no importance and the presence of women was barely tolerated. It was the base of newly evolved computer nerds, who prided themselves on being masters of their fields where women had yet to take active part and were highly skeptical of the abilities of their female counterparts."...

In Trouble - Again

While the number of plaintiffs complaining of discrimination at Microsoft kept mounting in 2001, Microsoft claimed that it was committed to diversity and did not tolerate discrimination of any type in its employment practices. The company announced that it had made considerable progress in increasing the number of minorities working at Microsoft and had demonstrated its commitment to diversity and equality by promoting women and minorities. According to company sources, as of October 2000, minorities accounted for 16.5% of total managerial positions in Microsoft and 22% of the domestic workforce of the organization as against only 17% in 1997...


Exhibit I: Microsoft's Failure in Preventing/ Remedying Discrimination
Exhibit II: Eliminating Discrimination in Organizations


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