Microsoft to review response to harassment allegations

Microsoft will review how the company responds to allegations of workplace sexual harassment, including how the company handles allegations against co-founder Bill Gates, the Microsoft board of directors announced Thursday. 

The inquiry comes after a majority of Microsoft shareholders voted for a resolution in November demanding more accountability in addressing workplace sexual harassment complaints at the company’s annual meeting.

“We’re committed not just to reviewing the report but learning from the assessment so we can continue to improve the experiences of our employees,” CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement.

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The review will lead to a public release of a transparency report that assesses the effectiveness of Microsoft’s workplace sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies and trainings, including a review of concerns raised by employees in a 2019 email thread, according to the board’s announcement. 

The report will also summarize the results of any sexual harassment investigations during the same time frame against members of the board of directors and Microsoft’s senior leadership team, including allegations that the board committee investigated in 2019 involving Gates, the board said. 

The Wall Street Journal reported last year that some Microsoft directors began an investigation in 2019 into a woman’s allegations that she had a sexual relationship with Gates over several years and that board members thought Gates should resign over the matter.

Microsoft has denied the claims that Gates, who resigned from the board in 2020, did so because of that pressure from board members as reported by the Journal. 

The review of the company’s policies and handling of allegations was driven by a shareholder proposal put forward by the firm Arjuna Capital. Nearly 78 percent of shareholders at the annual meeting last year voted for the proposal demanding more accountability, The Associated Press reported

Natasha Lamb, co-founder and managing partner of the firm, told the AP she is “actually quite impressed with how Microsoft has followed up on their commitment since the annual meeting.” 

“Our concern is not just what happened with Microsoft in the past but whether that behavior is being addressed and mitigated moving forward,” she said in an interview Thursday. “At the end of the day, from an investor perspective, this is about how the company is treating its employees and whether it’s able to attract and retain talent.”