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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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Charges of Discrimination Contd...

Reacting to increasing media coverage of lawsuits filed against it, Microsoft claimed that the company did not tolerate employee discrimination and was focused on offering unbiased treatment to employees and promoting women and members of minority groups in its organization. However, few people bought their story. Willie Gray, one of the leading attorneys dealing in discrimination suits, argued that Microsoft showed plantation attitude when it came to dealing with African-American workers. Gray remarked that in 1999, only 2.6% of the Microsoft's employees and only 1.6% of its managers were Black. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Microsoft remained in the news for discriminating against women and African-Americans.

Many cases of both sexual harassment and discrimination against female employees were reported. Though the issue of racial discrimination arose in the late 1990s, it was only in 2000 that the employees initiated legal proceedings against Microsoft, demanding equality and justice.

Background Note

William H. Gates (Bill Gates), along with his friend Paul Allen, established Microsoft Corporation in 1975. Bill Gates initially focused on software instead of hardware. Over the next two decades, Microsoft emerged as one of the richest and most influential companies in the world. In 1998, the company became the world's most highly valued company, reporting a market capitalization value of $466 billion.

Microsoft is engaged in developing, manufacturing, licensing and supporting an extensive range of software products and services for a multitude of computing devices.

Microsoft sells software to over a 180 million people. Its products are available in over 30 languages and are used in more than 50 countries. The company is also involved in developing highly advanced, robust technologies for next generation software products. Microsoft's success was attributed to (among other things) its effective recruitment and employee retention strategies. Microsoft had always attempted to attract the best talent.

According to a press report, "Microsoft seeks a particular type of smart person, one who is pragmatically inclined, verbally agile and able to respond deftly when challenged." Because of its efficient performance appraisal system and work culture Microsoft had a very low employee turnover rate. Microsoft gave incentives to employees on the basis of their performance appraisal. Employees underwent a performance review every year...

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