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Updated A lawsuit against Microsoft Corporation and Chairman Bill Gates was filed in US District Court for the District of Columbia Wednesday, demanding $5 billion -- yes, with a 'b' -- in compensation for black employees to heal the wounds of slavery and its continuing legacy of racial discrimination in Redmond.

Seven current and former employees brought the action, arguing that the software Behemoth discriminated against Blacks with unjust evaluations, lacklustre promotions and arbitrary sackings.

Ironically, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who last year ordered the Redmond Beast cloven in two, is handling the case at this stage.

Florida law firm Gary, Williams, Parenti, Finney, Lewis, McManus, Watson and Sperando is representing the aggrieved seven. The suit claims that in 1999, only 2.6 per cent of Microsoft employees and only 1.6 per cent of the company's managers are black.

Six more plaintiffs have since signed on, smelling blood and megabucks in the water, and the suit is expected to be amended late Wednesday or early Thursday, possibly as a class-action.

"Microsoft does not tolerate discrimination in any of its employment practices, and we are committed to treating all of our employees fairly," company spokesman Dean Katz told the Associated Press on Tuesday, adding that minorities of all stripes account for nearly 23 per cent of the company's work force. ®

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