Oct 6 (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp on Tuesday denied
a recent suggestion by the U.S. Department of Labor that its
plan to bolster diversity, including by investing $150 million
and doubling the number of Black employees in high-ranking
positions, amounted to illegal race discrimination.
The denial came in a blog post responding to a letter
Microsoft received last week from the Labor Department's Office
of Federal Contract Compliance Programs concerning an initiative
announced by Chief Executive Satya Nadella on June 23.
General Counsel Dev Stahlkopf said the letter suggested that
the initiative "appears to imply that employment action may be
taken on the basis of race," and asked Microsoft to prove its
efforts to improve opportunities were not illegal race-based
"Emphatically, they are not," Stahlkopf wrote.
"We are clear that the law prohibits us from discriminating
on the basis of race," she added. "We hire and promote the most
qualified person. And nothing we announced in June changes
A spokesman for the Labor Department said it "appreciates"
Microsoft's assurance it was not using racial preferences or
quotas, and "looks forward to working with Microsoft to complete
Microsoft announced its initiative four weeks after the
death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked
nationwide protests over racial inequality, and prompted more
companies to confront inequality in their own ranks.
Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google are
among companies to pledge greater commitments to diversity.
According to Microsoft's 2019 diversity report, just 4.4% of
U.S. workers at the company and affiliates such as LinkedIn were
Black, while less than 3% of U.S. executives, directors and
managers at the Redmond, Washington-based parent were Black.
Nadella pledged to double the number of Black employees in
the United States in senior and leadership roles by 2025.
He also said Microsoft would conduct more transactions
through Black-owned banks, and make investments to support
minority-owned banks and Black-owned small businesses.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by David
Gregorio and Christopher Cushing)