Microsoft Corp. said Thursday it has approached a foreign law firm to investigate allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace, including founder Bill Gates.
According to the technology giant, the law firm Arent Fox will compile a detailed report on the effectiveness of its domestic policy against sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the workplace. The announcement came after pressure from shareholders intensified to address the situation.
The report includes any investigations into Microsoft’s top executives, including the conclusion of its board’s 2019 investigation into allegations against Gates. The billionaire is accused of having an abusive relationship with a female employee of Microsoft.
“Our culture remains our number one priority, and the entire board appreciates the importance of a safe and inclusive environment for all Microsoft employees,” said Satya Nadella, Microsoft Chairman and CEO.
“We are committed not only to reviewing the report, but also to learning from the assessment to continue to improve the experience of our employees,” he added.
In November, Microsoft shareholders unanimously passed a resolution calling for the company to consider its workplace harassment policies “independently and transparently.” The resolution said an independent investigation was needed “to avoid legal and reputational risks and to maintain shareholder value.”
In May last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft had launched an investigation after management said it had sex with engineer Gates. A separate report in the New York Times reported that Gates asked to meet with another employee immediately after the presentation he attended.
Gates left the Microsoft board in March 2020, saying he wanted to focus on charity.
The council’s 2019 investigation was not completed after his departure. Microsoft said Gates’ decision to resign had nothing to do with the charges.
Arent Fox will release its report to the public with detailed information on Microsoft policies and workplace offense training. The investigation includes a review of the company’s response to a 2019 email in which it details allegations of harassment and discrimination in the workplace by female employees.
The report contains information on the number and results of the company’s internal sexual harassment investigations, as well as the steps it has taken to hold Microsoft employees accountable for misconduct. The law firm’s findings are expected in the spring of this year.
Microsoft claims that Arent Fox “has not previously been involved in representing Microsoft in employment matters and has not done a large amount of work for the company in the past.”