Newly surfaced documents show that Microsoft received 238 internal complaints pertaining to sexual harassment and gender discrimination between 2010 and 2016. Reuters reports that the unsettling figure was revealed in a 2015 lawsuit filed by the company’s female employees.
The suit alleges that women working in U.S.-based technical positions at the company were denied promotions and/or pay raises because of an internal rating system that discriminated against female workers. The Fortune 500 company has publicly denied the women’s claims, insisting that out of the 118 gender discrimination complaints, only one was “founded.”
“Diversity and inclusion are critically important to Microsoft. We want employees to speak up if they have concerns and we strive to make it easy for them to do so,” a Microsoft spokeswoman told Reuters on Tuesday. “We take all employee concerns seriously and have a fair and robust system in place to investigate employee concerns and take appropriate action when necessary.”
The company also said it spends about $55 million annually to promote diversity and inclusion among its 74,000 U.S. employees. In 2017, the company also eliminated the previously required arbitration agreements for employees who file sexual harassment complaints. It was a move that would theoretically make victims much more comfortable speaking out; however, female employees claim Microsoft made a habit of disregarding their reports.
Court documents state: “[A] female Microsoft intern raped by male Microsoft intern, reported rape to supervisor and HR, and yet forced to work alongside her accused rapist; when victim told HR she was considering obtaining a restraining order, she was informed she would be moved off the team if she did so; [her] accused rapist offered fulltime employment at Microsoft.”
The plaintiffs’ lawyers are pursuing a class-action lawsuit, which could cover more than 8,000 women. A trial date has not been set.