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Sexual harassment claims pile up at Microsoft

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It all started with an email chain within Microsoft. The thread began on 20 March and quickly snowballed as women working within the company began to add their own grievances to the fast-growing list of sexual harassment claims.

The content was first published on the Quartz tech website, which has chosen to protect the employees anonymity by not mentioning them by name. A spokesperson for Microsoft confirmed that one of the company’s top executives had read the email thread – which had made for very grim reading.

“This thread has pulled the scab off a festering wound. The collective anger and frustration is palpable. A wide audience is now listening. And you know what? I’m good with that,” one anonymous Microsoft employee wrote in the email chain.

Another female Microsoft employee claimed that during a work trip an employee of another company threatened to kill her if she did not perform implied sexual acts. She apparently raised the matter with Microsoft’s HR department immediately, but was told it “sounded like he was just flirting” and that she should “get over it”.

The gist of HR’s response to the claim was there was basically no evidence and that as the man worked for another company and not Microsoft, there was nothing it could do.

Another employee said she had been verbally abused at work on more than one occasion, and believed it was pervasive in the company.

“We did round tables with the women when I was in the Xbox core team and every woman, except for one, had been (similarly verbally abused) at work,” the Microsoft employee wrote.

“Before people say this is just an Xbox thing, (but) this is a Microsoft thing, a common one,” she added.

To be fair, Kathleen Hogan, head of human resources at Microsoft, has come out strongly in condemnation of the alleged behaviour within the organisation. On 29 March – when dozens of entries had accumulated in the chain – she announced she would personally look into the claims, initially not dealt with by HR.

“I discussed this thread with the (leadership team). We are appalled and sad to hear about these experiences. It is very painful to hear these stories and to know that anyone is facing such behaviour at Microsoft. We must do better,” Hogan wrote.

“I would like to offer to anyone who has had such demeaning experiences, including those who felt they were dismissed by management or HR, to email me directly. I will personally look into the situation with my team.”

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