Microsoft is hiring a third party to review its anti-harassment and discrimination policies. The tech giant has hired legal firm Arent Fox to conduct the review, which will also include the previous investigation into former CEO Bill Gates' affair with an employee in 2000.
Microsoft announced the review Thursday afternoon, with GeekWire noting multiple allegations against the company for sexism and harassment in an email chain from 2019. The email contains stories of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and more shameful behavior. In many cases, Microsoft did not investigate the stories any further.
One of the more damaging tales involved Microsoft co-founder and former CEO Bill Gates, who had an affair with a female employee in the year 2000. Microsoft initiated an investigation into the affair in 2019, with Gates stepping down as CEO in March 2020 before the investigation was complete.
A third issue to be reviewed will be a 2015 lawsuit initiated by a former female Microsoft employee. The suit claimed the company discriminated against female employees over pay, but was dropped in 2020.
The review will report on the following key elements:
- It will lead to the public release of a transparency report assessing the effectiveness of the company's workplace sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies, training, and related policies. This will include a review of concerns raised by employees in 2019 in the “In Need of Assistance” email thread, steps the company has taken to respond to these concerns, and additional steps that could further strengthen these safeguards. The review will also include an analysis of policies, practices, and commitments to create a safe, inclusive work environment.
- The report will summarize the results of any sexual harassment investigations during this same timeframe against members of the Board of Directors and the company’s Senior Leadership Team, including the allegations that a Board committee investigated beginning in 2019 involving Bill Gates.
- It will assess the steps that have been taken to hold employees, including executives, accountable for sexual harassment or gender discrimination.
- The report will include data on the number of sexual harassment cases investigated and their resolution.
After the review is published publicly, Microsoft management will create "plans for enhancements to current policies and practices." Microsoft will also benchmark its best practices against other companies in the tech sector.
However, the tech sector doesn't seem to have a particularly high bar, at least when it comes to games. Activision Blizzard, one of the biggest game publishers in the world, has been under for months for having a toxic work culture. Ubisoft is another big name that has been dealing with its own toxic workplace scandal for over a year. Even Microsoft’s Xbox hasn’t been entirely clean with its games' division, as Phil Spencer noted in a recent interview.
Kotick tried and failed to keep the news a secret.