Posted on October 7, 2020

Microsoft’s $150m Diversity Initiative Is Investigated for ‘Racial Discrimination’ by Labor Department

Karen Ruiz, Daily Mail, October 6, 2020

Microsoft’s $150million diversity initiative is being investigated by the US Department of Labor after the company pledged to hire more black and African American leaders within the next five years.

The DOL’s Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) will probe whether or not the tech giant’s new plan constitutes as racial discrimination and violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Microsoft announced the investigation in a corporate blog post on Tuesday, saying it plans to cooperate with the probe and maintained it is in compliance with the law.

‘We have every confidence that Microsoft’s diversity initiative complies fully with all US employment laws. We look forward to providing the OFCCP with this information and, if necessary, defending our approach,’ Vice President and General Counsel Dev Stahlkopf said.

In June, Microsoft unveiled its five-year plan to address racial inequality at its offices following nationwide protests triggered by the death of George Floyd in late May.

Microsoft announced it would add another $150million in diversity and inclusion investment to double the number of black and African-American people managers, senior individual contributors, and senior leaders in the U.S. by 2025.

They also promised to take steps to address the needs of other underrepresented groups, including the Hispanic and Latino community.

Stahlkopf said the company received a letter from the DOL last week suggesting the initiative appeared ‘to imply that employment action may be taken on the basis of race’.

‘The letter asked us to prove that the actions we are taking to improve opportunities are not illegal race-based decisions. Emphatically, they are not,’ Stahlkopf said.

‘We have decades of experience and know full well how to appropriately create opportunities for people without taking away opportunities from others.

‘One thing remains true of all our programs. We hire and promote the most qualified person. And nothing we announced in June changes that,’ she added.

Microsoft was one of dozens of corporations that announced efforts to tackle racial inequality at the workplace at the start of the country’s reckoning on race this summer.

Fellow tech giant Google also said that by 2025, it aimed to have 30 per cent more of its leaders from underrepresented groups.

Other US companies and across the globe also announced donations to nonprofit organizations and pledged money for internal company programs at the time.

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration has been making efforts to push back on social justice initiatives and programs at workplaces and universities.

Earlier last month, the president announced he had expanded his ban on ‘efforts to indoctrinate government employees with divisive and harmful sex and race-based ideologies.’

He said the ban would extend to ‘people and companies that do business with our country, the United States Military, government contractors, and Grantees.’