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Microsoft pledges to make public investigation into claims of sexual harassment, including those against Bill Gates

Lauren Rosenblatt, The Seattle Times on

Published in Business News

Microsoft will review of its policies regarding sexual harassment and gender discrimination, as well as publicly releasing the results of investigations into allegations involving members of the board of directors and senior leadership, including Bill Gates, the company announced Thursday.

The board announced that Microsoft would hire a third-party law firm to conduct a review that would assess the company’s practices, benchmark those policies against “best practices” adopted by other companies and look at the steps Microsoft has taken to hold employees and executives accountable.

The review will culminate in a public report — expected this spring — that will include data on the number of sexual harassment cases investigated as well as their resolutions.

“Our culture remains our number one priority and the entire Board appreciates the critical importance of a safe and inclusive environment for all Microsoft employees,” Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella said in a prepared statement.

“We’re committed not just to reviewing the report but learning from the assessment so we can continue to improve the experiences of our employees.”

The report follows a shareholder resolution that passed in 2021. The resolution sought a report on the effectiveness of the company’s workplace sexual harassment policies in light of claims of sexual harassment, including allegations that Gates sought to have inappropriate relationships with employees.

Microsoft said it received a complaint in 2019, while Gates was on the board, that he attempted to start a romantic relationship with an employee in 2000. The board investigated but said last year the process wasn’t concluded because Gates stepped down as a director.

 

In 2019, several allegations of sexual harassment at the company also surfaced in an email thread among employees.

The report coming this spring will include a review of concerns raised in that thread, the steps Microsoft has taken to respond and additional steps that could strengthen safeguards.

Microsoft has hired law firm Arent Fox to conduct the review. The Washington, D.C.-based firm represents global corporations, local and national politicians and large nonprofits.

Arent Fox will first provide a report to Microsoft’s board and management. The management team will then prepare an implementation plan, according to a release Thursday.

The board pledged to publish a public report documenting the review, it’s findings and management’s plan.

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