Microsoft announced Thursday that it has hired a law firm to review how the company handles allegations of sexual harassment against some of its top executives — including founder Bill Gates — and is expected to publish its findings in the spring.
The review will be conducted by Washington, DC-based Arent Fox LLP, which was chosen by the board of directors because it has experience dealing with allegations of sexual harassment and has not done much work with the company in the past.
After the law firm’s findings are made public, Microsoft is set to release a report detailing its sexual harassment investigations and what actions, if any, were taken as a result.
The company has been subject to sexual harassment allegations against Gates since 2000.
He resigned from the company amid an investigation into one of his relationships with a former employee in 2020, and on May 3, 2021 announced his divorce to his longtime wife Melinda French Gates on May 3, 2021.
A few weeks later, the New York Times published a disclosure detailing how Gates sexually molested several of his employees and remained a loyal friend of Jeffrey Epstein three years after he was convicted of soliciting prostitution from a minor.
Founder Bill Gates met and married Melinda French Gates, left, when she was a product manager for the company after graduating from college.
Gates is pictured with his ex-wife Melinda, second from right, and their three children
“Our culture remains our top priority and the entire board appreciates the critical importance of a safe and inclusive environment for all Microsoft employees,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement.
“We are committed to not only reviewing the report but learning from the assessment so that we can continue to improve our employees’ experiences,” she continued.
“I embrace this comprehensive review as an opportunity to continue improving.”
The move to hire an independent firm to review the company’s investigations comes after activist shareholders demanded greater disclosures about the company’s handling of sexual harassment cases.
The New York Times reported that a resolution seeking more transparency passed in November with the support of about 78 percent of shareholders in November.
As part of the review, Arent Fox is expected to present its findings to Microsoft’s senior management and board members with recommendations on how to improve the culture at the company, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The company will then share a summary of the findings with the public in the spring, which will lead to the public release of Microsoft’s transparency report detailing the effectiveness of the company’s workplace policies related to sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
The report will include data on the number of sexual harassment cases that Microsoft has investigated, and the results of those investigations, and is expected to summarize the results of investigations with Gates and other senior leaders.
In a statement, Microsoft executives said the report will “evaluate the steps that have been taken to hold employees, including executives, accountable for sexual harassment or gender discrimination.”
The company will also compare Microsoft’s policies on sexual harassment and gender discrimination with best practices that have been adopted by other companies.
Company founder Bill Gates has been accused of summoning at least two employees while running the tech giant
Company founder Bill Gates has been accused of summoning at least two employees while he was running the tech giant, according to The Times.
In at least one case, in 2007, she reported that Gates sat through a presentation given by a Microsoft employee and then immediately sent her an email requesting an appointment. He reportedly wrote, “If this makes you uncomfortable, pretend it never happened.”
Then Microsoft executives reportedly warned Gates not to do such things.
But at a cocktail party on a business trip years later, Gates allegedly asked a woman who works with him for dinner.
Then in 2019, Microsoft’s board of directors received a letter from an engineer claiming to have had an affair with Gates in 2000 that lasted for several years.
Microsoft’s board of directors investigated the incident and wanted Gates to resign from the board, Business Insider reported, and he resigned after one year.
A spokeswoman for the billionaire said his decision to step down was “in no way related to this matter. In fact, he has expressed an interest in spending more time on his charitable work that began several years ago.”
Gates also met his ex-wife, Melinda French Gates, when she joined the company as a product manager right after graduating from college. He asked her out one day in the company’s parking lot, Insider reports.