Technology is not colorless.

Author:Harris, Hamil R.
Position:Race discrimination suit filed against Microsoft - Brief Article

Microsoft gets slapped with $5 billion discrimination suit

Microsoft Corp. is the latest major employer to join the list of racial discrimination defendants, which include Shoney's Inc. (resolved in 1993) and the Coca-Cola Co. (resolved in 1999). African American workers who charge that officials with the software giant denied them promotions, pay raises, and treatment equal to their white colleagues' have filed a suit for $5 billion.

Attorney Willie E. Gary, who is noted for obtaining multimillion-dollar verdicts against major corporations, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in January on behalf of seven current and former Microsoft employees who allegedly were victims of a "plantation mentality" pervasive in the software company.

"It is so dehumanizing to realize that you are being treated differently based on your skin color," said Rahn Jackson, the lead plaintiff in the case. "I truly regret having to leave Microsoft and being treated like a second-class citizen."

Jackson, a former sales executive with the software leader, handled a $60 million Army account in the company's Washington, D.C.-based federal division, but says he was passed over numerous times for promotions while the jobs went to people with far less sales experience.

"This is about more than just these plaintiffs," said Gary, who hopes that all 500 of Microsoft's African American employees will join the suit. "This is about changing this `plantation-type mentality' that we see as it exists at the Microsoft company."

In the last year, at least three other Microsoft workers have filed discrimination lawsuits against the firm. Out of 21,429 Microsoft employees, only 553 are African American, and out of 5,155 managers only 83 are African American, according to Gary.

Jozette Joyner, who also worked in Microsoft's Washington, D.C., office, said at a press conference in January that a white manager created so much stress among black workers that the company brought in a psychologist.

"I was told by a manager, pointing fingers in my face, `You will never get out of this cubicle. You are never going anywhere,'" said Joyner.

Microsoft vice president of human resources Deborah Willingham said in a statement that the company has "a zero tolerance policy toward discrimination." Microsoft spokesperson Ginny Terzano, former press secretary for both...

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