Women Suing Microsoft Did Not Prove Companywide Bias Practices, Judge Says

By Rachel Lerman
The Seattle Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Columnist Rachel Lerman reports, “A wave of gender-bias lawsuits against companies in the male-dominated tech industry have started to reach critical courtroom stages, with some of the judges’ decisions relying on a common precedent. Class-action status was also denied earlier this week in a gender-bias lawsuit against social-media giant Twitter.”

SEATTLE

Two women suing Microsoft over gender discrimination did not prove that performance reviews were conducted so uniformly across the company that thousands of other women could join the bias case, a Seattle judge wrote in a decision released to the public Thursday evening.

A ruling last week from U.S. District Judge James Robart denied the motion to make the suit a class-action, but his written decision was sealed temporarily while Microsoft and lawyers for the plaintiffs redacted sensitive information.

The denial is a big roadblock for the plaintiffs and their lawyers, who were hoping to add more than 8,600 women to the nearly three-year-old lawsuit that alleges widespread gender discrimination across the company.

The plaintiffs can appeal the decision or decide to try other individual cases separately while continuing on with the original lawsuit.

“This order really illustrates how difficult it is for a group of employees to really challenge gender discrimination at a company on a class basis,” said Charlotte Garden, an associate professor of law at Seattle University.

A wave of gender-bias lawsuits against companies in the male-dominated tech industry have started to reach critical courtroom stages, with some of the judges’ decisions relying on a common precedent.

Class-action status was also denied earlier this week in a gender-bias lawsuit against social-media giant Twitter.

The ruling by that San Francisco judge relied on the same previous case cited by Robart: a 2011 Supreme Court decision that rejected a proposed class in a gender-bias case against Walmart. The court said the potential 1.6 million plaintiffs, who worked across the country under different managers, did not have similar enough experiences to be considered a class.

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