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Friday, November 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Appeals court will consider class-action question in Microsoft gender-bias case

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to hear an appeal of a lower-court decision by women alleging widespread gender discrimination who are seeking class-action status for the case. (Tribune News Service)
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to hear an appeal of a lower-court decision by women alleging widespread gender discrimination who are seeking class-action status for the case. (Tribune News Service)
By Rachel Lerman Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Women suing Microsoft alleging widespread gender discrimination will get another chance to convince a court that their claims should be considered together as a class, after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to hear an appeal of a lower-court decision.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are seeking to add to the case more than 8,600 women who have worked in engineering jobs at the company, making it a class-action suit. U.S. District Judge James Robart denied the class-action motion in June, saying there were not strong enough similarities between the women’s claims to prove companywide bias practices.

The case, Moussouris v. Microsoft, is one of a few high-profile gender-discrimination lawsuits against big tech companies weaving its way through the courts. It has been going on for three years and alleges gender discrimination across Microsoft, particularly tied to the way performance reviews and promotions were conducted. Microsoft has denied the claims, saying its processes do not discriminate against women.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs this summer appealed Robart’s ruling that blocked class-action status.

“We welcome the Ninth Circuit’s clarification of the class certification standards and believe the evidence here demands that Microsoft’s common discriminatory systems be addressed on a class basis so that women at the company can get justice,” plaintiff attorney Kelly Dermody said in a statement Friday.

A Microsoft spokesperson said Friday the company believed Robart made the correct decision.

“There is no bias in Microsoft’s pay and promotion practices,” the company spokesperson said in a statement. “We remain committed to increasing diversity and making sure that Microsoft continues to be a workplace where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.”

The court will likely hear oral arguments in the appeal in 2019.

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