Judge in Microsoft gender discrimination case has tough questions for women’s lawyers
Lawyers for Microsoft and women suing the company for gender discrimination squared off in federal court in Seattle on Monday over whether the case should include 8,600 other technologists who worked for the company. U.S. District Judge James Robart had tough questions about the ties between the would-be class.
Lawyers for a group of women suing Microsoft for gender discrimination faced tough questions from a federal judge in Seattle on Monday about whether their clients — and the thousands of women they seek to represent in court — had enough in common to justify a class-action case.
The lawsuit is one of a series of high-profile clashes between companies in the technology sector and their critics and employees, some of whom allege that the lucrative and prestigious industry has not dismantled a boys’ club that disadvantages women and ethnic minorities.
Monday’s hearing, in U.S. District Court, came 999 days after Katherine Moussouris, a cybersecurity engineer, first sued the company in September 2015, alleging that she had been passed up for raises and promotions in favor of less qualified men. She was subsequently joined by two other women, and at issue during the hearing on Monday was their motion to include in the suit some 8,600 women who worked in technology jobs at the company in the U.S. since 2012.
U.S. District Judge James Robart asked probing questions concerning what caused the alleged discrimination, and whether there were strong enough ties between women there to meet the standards for a jointly argued case.
Kelly Dermody, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said Microsoft managers were given little guidance on how to apportion pay and promotions, allowing discriminatory behavior to slip in.
“The problem of Microsoft’s system is they tell managers, ‘Here are the policies, here are the criteria,’ and don’t actually give sufficient guidance on how to rate [those] criteria,” she said.
Robart broke in: “Didn’t you just drive a wooden stake through the heart of your argument?”