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Ex-employee sues MS, claims race and sex bias

Says young white geeks hire young white geeks, apparently...

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Microsoft is being sued by a black, female former employee who claims race and sex discrimination. Monique Donaldson, who left the company in May, alleges that the company's appraisal system operates according to the biases of its largely white male managers, rather than on merit.

Donaldson's suit, which seeks class-action status, challenges the evaluation process, which takes place twice yearly, and claims that more than half of the company's black staff are in the lowest quarter as far as pay is concerned. Promotion, bonuses and stock options are alleged to be similarly disadvantantageous.

Microsoft will of course convincingly deny the existence of discrimination as corporate policy, but the suit doesn't appear to hinge on this. A relatively young, unstructured company with young management could find that minorities are unconsciously being disadvantaged - people tend to hire people like themselves, although fortunately there don't seem to be too many like Bill Gates at home.

The situation may also be made more tricky by an increase in disgruntled current and former Redmond staff. As you may (Microsoft staff certainly will) recall, last year Steve Ballmer reacted to a slowing stock price by changing remuneration policy. This boiled down to upping average salaries and tinkering with promotion opportunities while promising a tougher line on under-performers.

The stock price has been whacked a lot more since then, and with managers having to make tougher decisions, there will undoubtedly be a lot more unhappy losers out there. ®

Related story:
'Under-performing' staff will lose from MS pay reorg

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